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Ericsson, Symbian, Palm lead wireless Web alliance

With help from IBM and Oracle - but where are Nokia and MS?

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Palm's dance card at Geneva this week has been pretty full. Hot on the heels of the Palm-Symbian and Palm-Nokia deals, today we have the announcement of a GPRS alliance consisting initially of Ericsson, IBM, Lotus, Oracle, Palm and Symbian. Nokia and Motorola are mysteriously absent from the initial roster, and the mystery is somewhat compounded by the claim that "The GAA was established in June with an open invitation to the industry." This would appear to have been an extremely quiet open invitation, as nobody much seems to have noticed it at the time, although the organisation's Web site does have a release dated 22 June on it. This however couches it very much as an Ericsson initiative, and in the interim a lot of work will have gone into broadening it enough to make it credible. Nokia's absence can possibly be explained by the different nature of the portfolios of the two rivals. Nokia has been heavily involved in its own server application development for some considerable time, and may not feel the need to share its secrets with the others. Another absence, Microsoft, is less surprising, but sources tell The Register that MS was indeed poised to sign up, but pulled out. If this happened at Geneva, it might have been caused by the shock of Palm's foray into cellular-land. The alliance itself, styled the GPRS Applications Alliance (GAA), is intended to boost the development of mobile Internet applications using high speed GPRS (General Packet Radio System) as transport. Several European networks are poised to offer this as an add-on to GSM next year, but the GAA also seems to be aiming at the rest of the world. "GPRS," it says, "is a first, vital step for GSM and TDMA operators in the evolution to 3G (third generation) mobile networks." TDMA is technically a near relation of GSM, and is widely used in the USA and South America - by AT&T, among others. Active support for GPRS on TDMA (which is actually the number two world standard) will therefore aid take-off of mobile apps in the US, on both TDMA and the local GSM flavour, PCS1900. ®

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