Neil Gray, previously local manager of Rational Software, is moving on to smaller things.
He is now vice-president of the Asia Pacific territory for NetMorf, a Boston-based company devoted to reformatting Web site and database information for handheld devices. Rational is a producer of software development tools.
NetMorf's software, Sitemorf, is mounted on an NT, Solaris or Linux box, which sits between the main server and the recipient. It can handle transactions as well as pure output. It takes an XML feed and converts it for the mobile device, be it a cellphone, PalmPilot or other.
Gray acknowledges that most mobile devices have a limited screen and keyboard, but manufacturers are making them more amenable to Web-style presentation, with such additions as a menu-navigating roller beneath the screen.
“The telcos and handheld device manufacturers are betting the farm on these applications,” says Gray, so they clearly think the advantages outweigh the limitations.
There is no real “killer app” for mobile data access yet, he says. The chief applications in Australia are weather forecast reports and horoscopes, while Japanese services seem mainly directed at the teenage market. Screensavers and melodies for distinctive ringing tones are also among the most popular downloads in Japan.
“But a [WAP] culture will develop in time, as it has with cellphones and email,” he says. “The corporates need to start thinking about how this medium can offer them value.”
Travel operators, for example, might give “last-minute alerts” on the portable device with special offers for seats still available on flights.
He envisages portable-equipped customers ordering plant from a factory, or appliances from a store, simply by pointing at the items with the device’s laser connection.
The Asia-Pacific region for Netmorf will be driven from Wellington, says Gray – partly because that’s where he wants to live - but New Zealand is conveniently placed in time zone.
“I can talk to Boston in the morning and Asia in the afternoon.”
The company will be building business in this area with consulting partners, technical partners and OEMs who can incorporate Sitemorf technology as part of their own offerings.
“We’re looking for representatives in China, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. There will be opportunities to divert development work to New Zealand,” he says.