RealTime IT News

Openwave Browser Boasts Color, Cookies

Openwave launched two products Tuesday aimed at providing PC-like Web browsing on IP-based 3G phones in the U.S.

Officials announced the release of a content manager, dubbed Openwave Mobile JAM Plus, for Java-enabled phones and color browser support in the Openwave mobile browser 6.1.

Openwave Mobile Browser 6.0, which is essentially the same as v6.1, has been in use in Japan for some time now, primarily through wireless carrier KDDI. Version 6.1 is merely the global standard, with no real browser upgrades.

According to Brian Dally, Openwave director of product management, the features found in the new wireless phone browser should create a lot of interest in the U.S., just as it did in Japan.

"As data networks are improving, so are the things end users can do with a wireless phone and what they want to do is increasing," he said. "The browser is an integral part of that."

The browser supports the latest mobile Web standard, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.0, which lets developers design wireless cascading style sheet (WCSS) Web pages and XHTML.

Carriers and content developers will also be happy about the new browser's ability to support "cookies," a data file that collects user information, and an authentication mechanism for one-click shopping like that found on the Amazon.com e-commerce site. Customers may be thankful for the auto-fill feature, which fills in previously-used words so users don't have to continually punch on the keypad to spell out words, as well as a clip-and-save feature which lets users save Web pages on the phone after download.

To make all the content easily accessible as well as less time consuming, Openwave's developers created the content manager, which lets users do everything from preview photos before downloading to accessing a wireless carrier's content catalog to find out what services are available on the wireless phone.

Officials say improvements and wider acceptance of the Java 2 Platform, Mobile Enterprise (J2ME) by phone carriers is making it easier to develop more tools to provide compelling content. Tied with its color browser, Openwave expects to give wireless carriers what they need to bring in more customers.

While Openwave sources didn't release information on carrier uptake to its content manager, they did announce color browser support is being configured on 35 different wireless phone models from 20 separate manufacturers. The mobile browser is licensed to 40 manufacturers worldwide.

LG InfoComm, the North American arm of Korean-based LG Electronics, is already selling units with Openwave Mobile Browser 6.1 on its LG Model 5350 phones, which use the code division multiple access (CDMA) 2000 1X technology found on Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS national 3G networks. Sprint is using the LG 5350 phones as part of its Sprint PCS Vision product line.

The phone enhancements are expected to bring some relief to an area of 3G that's struggled to date, according to research firm Jupiter Research. According to a recent report, only six percent of U.S. wireless phone users browse the Internet, and the firm expects browser-based data services to remain at an anemic 25 percent in 2006.

Dally said the numbers aren't anything particularly worrisome, just a matter of content providers and content users finding out what works.

"There are a lot of challenges implementing a (mobile service)," he said. "We're still learning what people want to do with a browser, and people and still finding out what they want on a browser."

Openwave officials expects the color browser and Java content manager to spur some interest for phone browsing in the coming months and make a case for compelling content over 3G phones, according to Thomas Reardon, Openwave co-chief technology officer.

"Java technology is a critical, core handset ingredient, and just like the browser it is far too important for it to be an island on the phone," Reardon said. "Downloading and managing all kinds of content and applications, whether photos, Java applications or ring tones, will provide a more simple, fun and consistent experience on the mobile phone."

Openwave is an old hat in the wireless handset development market. Formed in November 2000 after Phone.com and Software.com joined forces, the company's developers have been designing products to enhance the digital wireless phone experience.

The company already has some experience bringing color to the phone, when Phone.com released its UP.Browser 8-bit color micro-browser for 2.5G phones.