Smart phone manufacturers try to outsmart one another

Several tools and development platforms for programmers to design software for smart phones emerged at the 3GSM World Conference in Cannes this week.

          Smart phones using the 3G (third generation) wireless networks for higher-speed data transfer will be able to send and retrieve email, play music and perhaps videos, and display calendar information. Several tools and development platforms for programmers to design software for smart phones emerged at the 3GSM World Conference in Cannes this week.

          -- Microsoft announced a partnership with Intel and Texas Instruments to produce a reference design for GSM phones. A reference design is a combination of chipset hardware and operating system software that can be used by any manufacturer, rather than individual OS and chipset designs for new smart phone models.

          -- Nokia cut its own deal with TI to offer mobile handset manufacturers and application developers an open-reference platform. Rather than using Microsoft's Pocket PC phone operating system, Nokia's standards-based platform will combine Nokia's Series 60 terminal software platform and development kit with the Symbian OS from Symbian, along with TI's own OMAP (Open Multimedia Applications Platform) chips and software developer kit. Nokia's software supports mobile browsing, multimedia messaging and content downloading. Manufacturers will find the prepackaged hardware and software work well together, cutting development costs and speeding the time new 2.5 and 3G phones can come to market, the companies say.

          -- A Linux-based operating system for smart phones will compete for smart phone manufacturers' attention. RidgeRun launched the Escali platform Tuesday at the show, combining Linux with J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition) functionality. The company touted the software's power management abilities as well as its cost. Because Linux is an open-source operating system, there are no licensing fees associated with its use. The incremental cost of Escali will be only a few dollars per phone for manufacturers, and likely less than the prices Microsoft will charge for its own OS software, says Phil Verghese, RidgeRun's chief technology officer.

          "People are nervous about Microsoft doing the same thing with the phone industry that it did with the PC industry," he says. Microsoft dominates the market for PC operating systems, but doesn't have the same hold on the mobile phone industry.

          The 3GSM World Congress in Cannes runs through Friday.

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