Motorola makes deals to push phone Java

Motorola Inc. Tuesday announced partnerships designed to prime the pump for Java applications on mobile phones.

The mobile telecommunications infrastructure maker has teamed up with mobile software publisher Handango Inc. to promote development and use of J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Mobile Edition) applications for handsets. Motorola also joined HillCast Technologies Inc. to provide financial applications and with Micro Java Network, a network of wireless Java developers, to provide additional business and productivity software for its phones.

Motorola, in Schaumburg, Illinois, which was an early proponent of Java-enabled phones, offers several handsets equipped to download and run applications written with J2ME. Consumers and businesses have been slower to adopt the technology than expected, but the recent introduction of bigger color displays and integrated carrier billing systems will get more users to try it, said Joe Coletta, vice president of solutions management at Motorola.

Handango and Motorola will cooperate to jumpstart the development of applications for Motorola handsets and will certify those applications through the Handango Mobile Ready certification process, according to a statement by the companies. They also plan to collaborate on marketing of phone-based applications.

Handango now provides the back-end infrastructure for the Entertainment Zone on Motorola's software shopping site, http://www.hellomoto.com. More than 1,500 games, ring tones, graphics and themes are available from the Entertainment Zone. They work on Motorola's latest data-capable phones, including the V60i, C330 and T720, and can be purchased for download from the site with a credit card or electronic wallet account.

Motorola also is advancing into the business software sector with HillCast's MidCast software, which streams continuous financial market information. It is now available to users of Motorola Java-enabled phones including the V60i, V66i, T280i, T720, A388 and A008. MidCast is designed to provide current price, closing price, trading volume, charts and other information on stocks over GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and CDMA2000 (Code Division Multiple Access) networks. Users can get the data in real time just by putting in a stock ticker. News, stock trading and personal portfolio management will be added in future versions, according to Motorola.

MidCast can be downloaded from http://www.motorola.com and http://www.hillcast.com. It initially will be available for a one-time fee of US$29.95 with unlimited free market data.

Through its deal with Micro Java Network, Motorola will make available on its online software store a variety of applications including software for collecting survey information from employees, a tool for keeping track of projects, tasks and expenses, and a world clock.

Most Java software for phones consists of games and other entertainment, Colleta said. About 30 percent of available applications fit into those categories, and when mobile customers use Java software on phones, about 80 percent of the time it's for entertainment, he estimated. Productivity tools are starting to catch on, but entertainment will continue to dominate the scene for at least a year.

There are about 2.5 million Java developers, and many of them are now trying to decide whether to start developing phone-based applications, Colleta said. About 80,000 developers have signed up for Motorola's developer program, which provides resources and downloadable tools.

Response to new applications has been mixed, but dramatic in some cases, he said. Some mobile operators have seen 80,000 downloads of an application in the first four weeks after its release. The technology has caught on most in the Asia-Pacific region, especially Japan. Gaming and other entertainment dominates the choices in that region, he said.

In addition to larger color displays, a key to drawing in more users will be the integration of data services billing into the carrier's regular billing system, he said. That will remove the need for customers to use a credit card or another separate payment system to download applications.

"You've got to make it very easy for the consumer and compelling for the consumer," Colleta said.

Education will be a key to encouraging more people to use phone-based Java applications.

"It has a lot to do with how much you're notifying the public what this experience is. I think there's a lot more opportunity there. These numbers are a good start, but they can be multiplied many times over," Colleta said.

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