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Sun, Microsoft Air Mobile Apps, Services at 3GSM

Like many of their competitors, rivals Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. demonstrated their latest mobile services and applications progress at 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France Tuesday. Both will show distinctly different offerings, however.

The Palo Alto, Calif. networking giant has spruced up its wireless offerings and will show them off at their conference booth, including presentations on how Java Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), when distributed through mobile infrastructure, in content layers, networks and devices, can help customers create wireless services.

How does Sun plan to show this? First, it will provide a mobile commerce presentation. In one example, personal identification numbers (PIN) and public key infrastructure (PKI) user authentication products will be integrated with the services based on user preferences and profiles. Users will test the solution by wireless downloading of content and applications from a personalized server. Payment will be performed either before or after the service's download. Other payment scenarios that may be enabled by this architecture include pre-paid, "pay as you go" and subscription-based services.

In another situation, Java APIs from the JAIN Community Process will be linked to Java-enabled servers and devices to create context-sensitive services. In one chat example, a participant will be detected and the system initiated a chat session leveraging the short messaging system network.

Sun is keying on dynamic provisioning, which is the real-time delivery of services over the air, to tailor the information and services available to the participants and perform real-time distribution of services.

Through all of this, Sun said it listened to suggestions from various industry bodies, including the Mobile Electronic Transactions (MeT) Initiative, the Mobey Forum, the Mobile Payment Group (PayCircle), and the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Forum's Billing Expert Group.

Sun, of course, is basing its wireless networking on several layers of its Java technology, specifically Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) for applications and the backend; Java Technology for Service Providers (JTSP), including JAIN for standardized APIs that use network intelligence and OSS through Java for operational support systems; and Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) together with Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) and Java Card technology for devices.

Sun will also make a significant push in its blade server offerings for telecommunications. The firm unveiled a hardware/software platform geared for developing next-generation network infrastructures with 99.999 percent availability; the Netra High Availability Suite 2.0 software is a breakthrough in the field, according to Brett Martin, group marketing manager for Sun's Telecommunications Hardware and Platforms division.

"Lots of people have come to the table for telecommunications blade servers," said Martin, referring to partial attempts by Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co. "But we feel their programs aren't as well-rounded."

The announcement of Netra HA 2.0 met with one analyst's approval.

"Server vendors are only beginning to realize the high growth opportunity in the telecom server blade market," said Mark Melenovsky, Research Manager for IDC's Global Enterprise Server Solutions Group. "With this announcement, Sun leverages its one to two year headstart on its peers."

Redmond, Wash.'s Microsoft also has a presence at Cannes, albeit it more software- and device-centric. On Tuesday, the software giant plans to air its Phone Edition application, which will help gadget owners access data and make voice calls. The software will run on the Pocket PC 2002 operating system and will be used with Hewlett-Packard Co.'s new Jornada 928 Wireless Digital Assistant.

Microsoft also plans to work with Intel Corp. to design a high-end phone that they will license to mobile-phone makers. And why not? Just as Microsoft and Intel saturated myriad PCs with their software and chips, respectively, they hope to extend that control personal digital assistants and communicators. Already, Compal Electronics Inc., a Taiwan-based laptop manufacturer, will unveil a high-end phone in Cannes based on a blueprint Microsoft has forged with Texas Instruments Inc.

Ben Waldman, vice president for the Mobile Devices Division at Microsoft, summed up his company's maneuvers: "Ultimately, we're striving to bring down the barriers to entry for device manufacturers and paving the way for a market explosion of innovative, smart devices at low cost, which will benefit customers, carriers and the industry at large."

Microsoft and Intel's recipe for success lies in the fact that there is no standard design platform in the wireless industry to speed the development and deployment of wireless devices and apps; each is created in its own environment, whether its Palm software working best with Palm devices or whatever. Intel and Microsoft, then, hope their designs will allow developers to build from a standardized platform. The development of the reference designs is under way, and the firms plan to be introduce them later this year.