Mobile Alliance Spells Out Global Specs

The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), a standards group for the mobile phone and wireless computer industries, has released technical details that aim to drive open standards and interoperable mobile services for wireless devices worldwide.

Created back in June 2002, the OMA is pushing for open specs over a variety of networks, countries and mobile devices. The group includes close to 200 wireless hardware, software and communications providers, which have agreed on the basic guidelines for a new range of wireless applications and services.

The OMA Release Program spells out technical specifications, which are the building blocks for a variety of mobile services worldwide. The agreed upon applications include what the OMA calls “seven enablers”: mobile browsing, Multimedia Messaging (MMS), Digital Rights Management (DRM), Domain Name Server (DNS) lookup via mobile devices, mobile content download, e-mail push notification, and user/device profiles. The OMA also introduced the Instant Messaging and Presence Services (IMPS) protocol. The OMA expects the first devices supporting the agreed upon mobile applications protocols will be out by the summer of 2003.

“Standards aren’t getting in the way of wireless multimedia services. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Nextel and T-Mobile are already offering content services, without a lot of agreed upon standards,” said Iain Gillott, principal at iGillott Research, based in Austin, Texas.

As with all standards bodies, competitors must cooperate on the hardware and software basics, and then differentiate in the design, content, marketing and pricing of those services. While Microsoft , Nokia , Sun
, Oracle and others are part of the OMA, the leading computing and communications players are cooperating on some levels in developing open standards, they also have differing strategies. There are bound to be disagreements, regarding proprietary systems, such as Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, and Sun’s Java programming language.

In a related development, PalmSource, based in Sunnyvale, California, said it will be joining the OMA as part of its plan to see the rapid development of interoperable standards that work across global platforms from handheld devices to smart phones.

“The real issue is what does the user want and what are people willing to pay for, and it’s up to the operators to come up with the right mix of content, marketing and pricing,” Gillott added.

While wireless web and mobile data services have been hyped over the past couple of years, demand in Europe, Asia and North America has to date been relatively muted. However, wireless data services, excluding messaging, are expected to generate close to $1 billion in revenue in Europe this year, according to market researcher IDATE, based in Montpellier, France.

“Right now, three percent of the carriers revenue comes from data and content, the other ninety-seven percent of the money comes from voice traffic. We predict that in four years, twenty percent of the revenues will come from data and content. It’s at that point that standards become more important, if and when there are more subscribers,” Gillott said.

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