Microsoft Taps Cloud for Feature Phone Upgrade
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Microsoft is releasing a phone application platform for emerging markets -- South Africa is first -- that will let owners of so-called "feature phones" (non-smartphones) run some smartphone apps by hosting them in the cloud.
Called OneApp, the platform has both client and server components. The client code that runs on the feature phone is tiny, only 150 KB. The server components run as "cloud services that help offload processing and storage from the phone to the Internet, improving overall performance," according to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) statements.
Feature phones make up the majority of the most popular mobile phones used in emerging markets. However, while they may have some smartphone-type features, such as a built-in camera, FM radio, and browser, they generally lack the memory and processor power, as well as an operating system, capable of running more demanding smartphone applications.
OneApp aims to change that.
In South Africa, OneApp will be available through Blue Label Telecoms as part of the upcoming release of the operator's mibli consumer mobile service.
On the list of apps that feature-phone users can run are Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger and Mobile Wallet. However, what applications will actually run on which operator's feature phones "will vary by partner," Microsoft's said. For instance, South Africa's mibli service will include a mobile wallet, Windows Live Messenger, popular games, and multiple feed readers for sports and news as well as finance.
OneApp runs on most feature phones that support Java. On the list of feature phones that work with OneApp initially, are numerous models by Nokia (including the 3555, 5320, E50, N70 and others) and Sony Ericsson (including the C510, C902, G705, K610i and others) as well as the Samsung U900.
Broader release and developer kit coming next year
While OneApp will see the light of day first in South Africa, Microsoft has plans to deploy it in other emerging nations in the next year. Microsoft also plans to have a developers kit out for OneApp by the end of 2009.
The Unlimited Potential Group "is tasked with creating new business models and technology solutions tailored specifically for the needs of customers in underserved communities" around the world, UPG said in a Microsoft statement.