Sprint Takes to the Open Mobile Road

Sprint has launched a new open Java friendly mobile platform in a quest to push desktop and Web 2.0 features into handset applications and drive enriched device functionality.

The Titan platform offers a standards-based Java environment for Sprint Windows Mobile devices. The third-place wireless carrier said it is the first of several new platforms to be deployed.

Sprint’s Titan supports MIDP Java ME applications, CDC/Foundation Java Virtual Machine, the OSGi framework and the Eclipse embedded Rich Client (eRCP) application model. The supported environments, said Sprint, will allow richer application development and let developers move desktop applications to mobile devices in an easier fashion.

“It complements our existing open JAVA platform for our feature phone lineup by enabling multiple application development models and remote management capabilities,” Emmy Anderson, Sprint communications manager, told InternetNews.com.

Developers can use the same codes, tools and resources in the mobile environment as those used for desktop applications. This could help stats like those Sprint cited by Evans Data research, which counts 7.1 million Java developers building desktop applications but only 3.6 million crafting mobile applications.

The platform news arrives as Sprint struggles to stem losses in subscribers and market share amidst big gains by industry leaders AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

For the third quarter of 2008, Sprint reported revenue of $8.8 billion, a three percent dip from the second quarter, leading to a net loss of $326 million and $0.11 per share. Analysts had expected a profit, albeit a small one, of $0.03 per share from $8.85 billion in revenue.

Sprint lost 1.3 million subscribers in the third quarter and now has 50.5 million users — 4 million less than the third quarter of 2007. AT&T’s total subscriber base is 74.9 million, while Verizon Wireless touts 84 million subscribers following regulatory approval of its $28 billion acquisition of rural carrier Alltel.

Industry analysts say mobile application innovation is a key aspect for carriers and handset makers in luring new subscribers and retaining customers. Open mobile development platforms, in particular, are gaining ground as a primary avenue to make that innovation happen.

The most notable this year has been the open source Android platform’s first born, the HTC G1 smartphone, pushed into market this October from the Open Handset Alliance.

While Sprint is an Alliance member, competing carrier and fellow Alliance member T-Mobile is the exclusive G1 carrier. Finnish handset maker Nokia took a huge open platform step as well in buying up Symbian, the leading open source platform.

Along with its new platform Sprint is pushing out new development tools and a supporting resource site for developers.

In doing so it joins a growing list of players shoring up mobile development activity.

Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) launched a $150 million BlackBerry Partners Fund in May, an official mobile application storefront in 2009 and held its first-ever developer conference this year. Motorola (NYSE:MOT) pushed out a robust toolset in mid Spring for its MOTODEV Studio platform to entice stronger development.

In March venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers launched a $100 million dollar “iFund” for iPhone products and services. Nokia deployed the latest version of its S60 Symbian platform this year and launched a developer contest to spur development activity.

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