BREW, Java Wars Shift to China

A battle for wireless application software is heating up in China.

Separate announcements made this month by QUALCOMM
and partners of Sun Microsystems reveal a greater
intensity with regards to the companies’ respective BREW and Java platforms
in the region.

Case in point: San Diego-based QUALCOMM is one of three groups investing
US$3.5 million in Sichuan Great Wall Software Group. Based in
Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Great Wall is a wireless phone software developer
and application provider that focuses on QUALCOMM’s BREW
development platform and gpsOne position-location technology. Great Wall’s
portfolio includes a location-based service, an online travel package and
hotel reservation service, and a wireless dating and community service.

Earlier in the month, Taiwan-based iaSolution introduced two new
high-level mobile Java-compatible MS Windows Mobile handsets under the
guidance of China Mobile. iaSolution is Sun’s first wireless Java Technology
(J2ME) licensee partner in China, which was first highlighted when it introduced J2ME Technology’s newest MIDP2.0 version and successfully passed the China Mobile test.

The two competing development platforms found convergence last year under a licensing deal, but analysts like the Zelos Group’s Seamus McAteer suggest
enterprise customers spend that extra time before considering which platform
to invest in.

“Java is a technology. BREW is a business model with technology,” McAteer
told internetnews.com. “From a technical perspective, BREW has
superior support for native interfaces and native resources — and it is an
end-to-end system. The success of Java has very little to do with Sun
Microsystems.”

McAteer said that even though Sun has done well in Asia with partners
like NTT DoCoMo and Sprint , the supremacy
of wireless Java in terms of global shipment volume is somewhat misleading.

“The installed base of devices that support Java includes a substantial
number that are not provisioned to access download services or that are on
devices that can only handle very rudimentary downloads,” McAteer said.

As for growth with BREW, McAteer called ring tones and games a cash
register for QUALCOMM. He said its partnerships with Verizon Wireless in the
U.S., China Unicom and KDDI in Japan, and KTF in South Korea are valuable, as China
Unicom ships more CDMA phones to Asia-Pacific customers.

“It is uncertain if BREW will evolve to become an operating system or a
broader platform for applications provisioning and device management,”
McAteer said. “The roadmap for Java is better defined.”

McAteer also pointed out that the openness of Java is a primary
advantage. However, the politicized standards-setting process has slowed
development and resulted in inconsistent implementations that add a
significant burden to the development process.

As for BREW, a Zelos Group report said client-side consistency, coupled
with support infrastructure from certification through to settlement,
enabled BREW to become a more significant venue for paid content downloads
in the U.S. market.

In a broader market, San Francisco-based Zelos Group released a report in
June showing U.S. shipments of mobile handsets that support Java or BREW
device middleware will grow from 62 million in 2004 to just over 100 million,
or 90 percent of all handsets that ship, in 2009.

Current and expected carrier and OEM support will insure that Java
sustains its leadership position. U.S. sales of devices that support BREW
will grow from 23 million in 2004 to 38 million in 2009, whereas annual sales
of Java-capable handsets will grow from 39 million to 63 million in the same
period.

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