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Motorola, Ericsson, Siemens team on cellphone gaming

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Mobile phone giants Motorola, Ericsson and Siemens have unified their efforts to turn the cellphone into a portable gaming platform. The result is a plan to define a "universal" - ie. open - mobile games platform.

The partners announcement of the initiative is remarkably short on detail, largely because it's really just them telling the world+dog that they're going to tell world+dog all about it at some point in the future. Initial specifications are expected some time in Q3.

What can be said is that the platform will encompass not only an interface for running games on a cellphone, but provide back-end APIs to allow cellular network companies and ASPs to deliver and presumably charge for play. It will also facilitate multiplayer gaming.

The focus seems nicely broad too, taking in not just cellphones but other systems capable - or soon to become capable - of networking over cellular links, such as PDAs, games consoles and PCs.

Central to the initiative is Metrowerks, the Motorola-owned (hint, hint) software development tool maker. Metrowerks will prepare a version of its popular CodeWarrior development environment for the new platform. And since Metrowerks offers CodeWarrior for coding PalmOS, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, GameCube, MacOS, Win32, Symbian and Java software, it's in a pretty good position to enable support for the UMGP on all these platforms.

With all three companies having already joined various games industry players to develop games for cellphones and cellular networks, the initiative should hit the ground running. Certainly there's need for a universal, consistent approach to mobile gaming if it's to attract wide industry support. No one wants to code quality titles if they have to prepare different versions for different hardware and different cellular network providers.

Of course, whether this would have come about if the three participants weren't having such a hard time of it in the cellphone market is open to question. It's perhaps telling that their most successful rival, Nokia, isn't part of the programme. It too has been nosing around the mobile games market.

All of them will be looking at ways of providing features that will eventually take advantage of third-generation cellular links and sell more handsets in the meantime. WAP doesn't seem to have cut it - perhaps mobile games will. ®

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