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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Insignia Solutions Inc has launched a new wireless Java infrastructure platform intended to enable maximum flexibility of service deployment while simultaneously protecting investment in handsets,

Tony Cripps

writes.

The new multimedia-enabled platform marks a concerted effort by the Fremont, California-based company to differentiate itself from the plethora of other Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) virtual machine (VM) vendors.

The launch also provides a cornerstone in Insignia's efforts to establish itself as an wireless infrastructure provider of choice, and further disassociates it from its broader embedded systems past.

Possibly the most interesting capability of the Insignia Secure Systems Provisioning (ISSP) platform is its ability to provide over-the-air field upgrades to J2ME-enabled devices. Insignia is confident that this capability, which enables an operator to fix bugs remotely without having to recall handsets and wireless PDAs, will make ISSP a popular choice among carriers looking to augment existing J2ME provisioning servers, such as that from 4thpass Inc.

"There were six recalls for Nokia's latest smart phone last year," Insignia VP operations, Peter Baldwin, told ComputerWire, adding that handset recalls cost Japanese mobile operators about $400m in the same period. This would be slashed using ISSP, said Baldwin, speculating that the cost of a field upgrade may come in at $2 rather than the $100 it costs to recall and replace defective devices.

However, ISSP's utility not only lies with the operators, it could also prove a boon to device manufacturers. Devices vendors are currently facing considerable difficulties integrating the different pieces of the mobile equation, for instance, mobile internet, messaging, multimedia, location based services, synchronization and application provisioning, said Baldwin.

But just as difficult is the multitude of different technologies that can provide each of those functions, especially with multimedia functionality. ISSP can, said Baldwin, go some way to addressing this problem by obviating the need for devices to carry, for example, specific codecs out-of-the-box.

Instead, ISSP provides the means for operators to upload the necessary software as necessary in a form that they can guarantee will work with the device in question. Baldwin said that this capability could also prove important in creating operator "stickiness".

Insignia's efforts to push back into the operators' infrastructures is an acknowledgement that J2ME VMs do not in themselves constitute a sufficient business offering. Sun Microsystems Inc's recent decision to take more of an interest in its own J2ME VMs will undoubtedly put more pressure on some of the smaller companies in the space.

The result is that companies that trade solely on their VM technology, whether or not they have multimedia enhancements, may struggle to survive unless they occupy a specific niche. And even where vendors do offer more of an end-to-end platform, their futures will not be guaranteed without industry support.

Insignia itself looks to be in a strong position to build its own business. The company can boast a strong line-up of partners among the handheld device and mobile operator elites. Baldwin lists Compaq, NEC, Sharp and Fujitsu among the PDA makers to have adopted its VM, while Nokia and Motorola look set to adopt the technology in their second-generation Java phones "next year", according to Baldwin.

More important to Insignia, however, are its relationships with top-tier wireless carriers. In Europe the company can claim France Telecom/Orange, Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile and Vodafone as supporters, while US backers include Sprint, Cingular Wireless and Nextel.

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