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Openwave Releases Wireless GUI

Attendees at this year's 3GSM World Congress got a sneak peek Tuesday of Openwave Systems, Inc.'s, graphics-based mobile browser.

The Openwave Mobile Browser for the wireless application protocol (WAP) and the universal edition will run on a new wave of products that lets customers use applications and navigate the Internet in much the same way they would on a personal computer.

The micro-browser's ability to support the many different wireless technologies is sure to please many of the vendors at the Cannes, France, convention.

Designed for 2.5G and 3G communications, Openwave's OS supports technologies including time division multiple access (TDMA), code-division multiple access and global system for mobile communications (GSM).

British Telecommunications wireless arm, Genie, announced today it had named Openwave its preferred micro-browser.

"We believe that the new Openwave mobile browser will dramatically improve the customer's mobile Internet experience and expect the improvement will be truly dramatic, it's like comparing the transition from (Microsoft's) disk operating system (DOS) to Windows," said Kent Thexton, BT Genie president.

Using the wireless browser, users will be able to view images, animation and sounds using either a monochrome or color handset. Users can also use applications and visit Web sites using voice commands or pen-based navigation.

Officials expect the software to run in handsets sold to the public in mid- to late-2001.

Jeff Damir, Openwave president of device products, said his company's software is sure to launch renewed interest in the wireless market.

"Openwave's new user interface promotes ease-of-use and effortless navigation capabilities with a look and feel that will be very familiar to existing Web users," Damir said. "(When) the handsets with the new user interface ship, we expect the improvement in usability to significantly accelerate WAP usage...(it will) create tremendous opportunities in the global wireless market."

A graphical user interface (GUI) solution to wireless communications is long overdue in the U.S.

Many U.S. customers are balking at buying current wireless Internet handsets like those offered by Sprint and Verizon because of the inefficient method for Internet surfing, which can be time-consuming when using a phone's numeric keypad to enter letters.

This, at a time when wireless is poised to overtake the PC as the platform of choice for Internet access.

According to Ken Hyers, a senior wireless analyst at Cahner's Instat, wireless Internet access devices sales will experience double- and triple-digit growth through 2004.

"Carriers throughout the world will roll out Internet access at different speeds," Hyers said, with businesses initially the primary customers. But as access speeds, displays and interfaces improve, he said, they will become a hit with consumers as well.

Software makers are happy to see the new wireless browser, as it lets them use three of the most popular wireless markup languages; wireless markup language (WML), extensible hyper-text markup language (xHTML) and cHTML (used by Japan's iMode users).

The WAP edition supports version 1.2.1, while the universal edition will include the current version and the expected WAP 2.0 standard.

In related news, Openwave also launched Tuesday its IP-based mobile messaging gateway, which opens the door to wireless instant messaging and message notification applications.

The company's mobile messaging gateway is an adaptor that allows IP and signaling system 7 (SS7) technologies to coexist without the need for a revamped transport system.