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Sun Calls on Pixo for Mobile Payments

Sun Microsystems Thursday said it will acquire server software maker Pixo as part of a plan to make Java the main platform for mobile transactions.

Privately held Pixo, of San Jose, Calif., makes server software to help service providers manage, distribute and charge for content downloaded to mobile devices using the Java platform.

Under the terms of the agreement, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun paid an undisclosed sum of cash for Pixo. The deal still has to meet regulatory approval, but the network computer maker said it is confident the transaction will close next week.

The purchase also makes Sun a major player in the arena of digital rights and access management for mobile content distribution. Mobile phones using the Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME), a version of Sun's Java created for small devices, can download and swap out business and personal applications including games, music and videos. However, service providers must provide their own distribution and billing infrastructure. A competitive platform, QUALCOMM's BREW , allows similar functionality for mobile phones and also includes software for delivering and charging for the downloads.

Recently, Sun has been working on bringing all of its different flavors of Java under one branding initiative.

"Pixo provides a critical link integrating the evolution of Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition, with the pervasive adoption of Sun's Solaris Operating Environment and Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition," Sun executive vice president Jonathan Schwartz said in a statement. Schwartz will eventually oversee any staff and projects coming over to Sun.

Pixo's offering, Mobile Download Server 3.6 (MDS), includes tools to let service providers create and launch targeted marketing campaigns based on a subscriber's previous activities, to be sent via short message service (SMS), e-mail or WAP . Pixo customers include Bell Mobility of Canada and Hewlett-Packard, which plans to use MDS to offer Asian carriers a hosted subscriber download service.

Sun said Pixo's MDS platform will become part of its recently announced mobility initiative, the Sun Developer Network Mobility Program, Business Mobility Initiative and Unified Testing Initiative for Wireless Java Applications.

The company said that Pixo's technology will complement the Java Card Subscriber Identity Module (SIM). The swappable card can be moved from device to device while maintaining the user's identity, so that, as mobile devices become more sophisticated, a user could, for example download music to the PC then transfer it to an advanced mobile phone that included an MP3 player, or download games to a phone and a PDA using the same billing account and password. SIM cards are widely used in GSM phones available in Europe and Asia, where they allow customers to keep their mobile phone number when swapping phones.

Sun also said it plans to eventually roll Pixo into the Project Orion platform, the Solaris product family delivered using the utility model that was announced in February.