uiOne Makes Personalization Possible

By Lynnette Luna Now that operators have the high-speed data pipes in place, the color-screen mobile devices capable of processing rich graphics, and content publishers clamoring to get on these tiny screens, they still have one big hurdle to jump over when it comes to the consumption of data: discovery. How can customers easily discover content so they will buy it? A number of wireless firms are pointing to the idea of personalization—the ability for customers to have control over their content and customize the type of content they want to see. That was the idea behind Qualcomm’s uiOne interface initiative, launched two years ago after Qualcomm’s purchase of Trigenix, which provides the user interface technologies and tools for uiOne. “Developers wanted a way to make applications more rapidly and more interesting,” says Mitch Oliver, vice president of solutions and marketing with Qualcomm Internet Services. “And looking into stats, we discovered that once people discovered content, they would buy more. The problem was that devices are still voice-centric devices, and how customers migrated to the data store was different on every handset. We had to improve discovery.” Unbundling BREW uiOne is the unbundling of BREW. It runs on top of the BREW client but does not require an operator to adopt the entire BREW ecosystem. It essentially allows users to customize their phones, similar to how a desktop PC user might arrange the icons on a computer screen. Users can more easily access and manage information. uiOne has enabled Qualcomm to crack non-BREW markets, such as Java-centric Europe and U.S. operators such as Sprint Nextel, which does not use BREW. Six operators thus far have announced they are using uiOne: Alltel, Sprint Nextel, U.S. Cellular, O2, Telecom Italia and Telecom New Zealand. Interestingly, each operator is using uiOne with significant differences, with some not even using the interface for enabling personalization at all. In the U.S., where operators control the phones sold for use on their networks, personalization is a key element, but is taking on various forms. Sprint’s affinity phones Sprint Nextel is using uiOne to create theme-enabled phones and also for launching embedded applications on devices, such as sports and other affinities, including On Demand, says Pujan Roka, development manager in the device development group with Sprint. Today, Sprint offers eight theme-enabled phones and Roka says the company is pleased with the results and will explore more theme possibilities. uiOne is also playing a role in Sprint’s cable joint venture with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications for bundled quad-play services. The joint venture is leveraging uiOne’s theme capabilities to deliver customized interfaces to customers. Consumers can watch TV on their phones, access home TV listings with a programming guide designed to look like the one of their TV sets, check their home e-mail and voice mail from one source, make unlimited calls between their digital cable phones and their mobile phones, and have one point of contact for billing and service. Sprint has completed a full deployment of uiOne On Demand in two Sanyo and two Samsung devices, and users can expect to see more embedded applications enabled by uiOne later this year, Roka says. BREW customer Alltel uses uiOne with personalization in mind. In January, it introduced Celltop, a BREW application that uses the UiOne user-interface software to grant subscribers easy access to the application and simple ways to customize how each service is presented on the phone’s screen. Celltop’s most unique selling point is the ability for users to modify the appearance, presentation and organization of their information within the cells shown on the screen. The user even controls the background color of the cells. The application also stores the user’s preferences and updates the cells accordingly. Overseas implementations Across the Atlantic, where half of the handsets are sold through operator channels and the other half through retail channels, O2 is using uiOne to create an O2-branded user interface on the Ice device, an O2-branded device. While personalization is a future goal, O2’s immediate goal is to promote its own brand, Oliver says. Meanwhile, Telecom Italia Mobile opted to use uiOne to not only create a branded device but to allow consumers to select the look and feel of the device, Oliver says. TIM’s uiOne-enabled UMTS handsets also support advanced 3D games from publisher Gameloft. Oliver believes it is only a matter of time before operators push deeper into personalization. “Operators are really now seeing that it’s important to bring core services to the user. They don’t want the same four links in front of every consumer,” he says. “That’s where it starts to get exciting because consumers are deciding what kind of phone they want.” For more on Sprint’s implementation of uiOne, check out the “Power Up with Sprint uiOne-based Products and Services” panel Thursday at 2:45 p.m.