"Open" BREW?

Look for Qualcomm to loosen some of the walled-garden constraints it has around BREW to create a more "open" platform for mobile Internet services at next week's conference. The overall shape this new strategy takes and Qualcomm's specific approaches for implementing it aren't clear yet but it seems to represent an important juncture in the evolution of BREW.

Indications of what's to come can be found on the BREW conference agenda. On Day One during his keynote speech, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs will discuss "Beyond Voice: Evolving, Expanding and Opening the Wireless Ecosystem." On Day Two, Andrew Gilbert, executive vice president and president of Qualcomm Internet Services, MediaFLO Technologies and Qualcomm Europe, will present a keynote titled, "BREW and Beyond--Opening Up the Mobile Internet," as well as his vision for Qualcomm services that will run on "any content, over any network, via any device."

If the pattern of past BREW keynote speeches will be employed again this year, watch for Jacobs to announce a strategy or platform that embraces the notion of "open," and for Gilbert to introduce specific partnerships, products or deployments that Qualcomm has crafted to give the new strategy momentum.  (PUT JUMP TO WEB HERE)

The term "open" is of course a subjective one and QIS could take any of a number of approaches when crafting this new strategy. The company's portfolio of silicon technologies, software and services that it has steadily built up through internal development and acquisitions could be offered in various new ways to give operators, manufacturers, developers, and content companies any number of packaged or modular solutions: "It's just a question of applying these into a market that is changing," says John Jackson, vice president of the Yankee Group's enabling technologies group.

Obviously, the open trend is growing. Besides Verizon Wireless' decision to allow access to third-party devices and applications on its networks, there have been a growing number of open handset initiatives that have been born in the last year.

Jayanthi Rangarajan, president and CEO of Novarra, which provides Internet solutions to operators and content providers, says that right now, 22 operators in Europe are looking for vendors to offer server-based solutions that will make it possible to give end-users convenient and fully functional access to on- and off-portal content via typical cellular phones so that their customers can participate in these new online activities. Qualcomm, alert to Novarra's ability to serve this need, joined the company's board and invested in it last year.

With Qualcomm's intentions to address the "open" issue now known, some operator and content partners are acknowledging their roles in advocating for an evolved BREW.

"Whatever's being developed right now in BREW is very much resonating with some of the discussions I've had with them for almost a year," says Pankaj Sethi, president of value-added services and enterprise marketing at Tata Teleservices Ltd.  "We've been having a lot of discussions with Qualcomm to get us all into the model of embracing that which is new, and that is 'open.'"

Glu Mobile, a leading publisher of mobile games, has been pressing Qualcomm to give publishers the ability to have closer relationships with their customers, to develop more interactive and personalized methods of targeting their customers with new products, and to reach their customers through their own hosted sites. While the BREW distribution system has had its obvious merits--Glu brings in more business with BREW than it does with Java applications--the market has a greater need for flexible framework than it ever has, said Justin Kubiak, vice president of marketing for North America at Glu Mobile. "We're anxious and excited about the changing environment" at BREW, he says. 
- Peggy Albright, contributing editor for BREW Times and FierceDeveloper