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The Mobile Games Interoperability Forum released its new specifications this week, giving mobile gamers another reason to prepare for an industry explosion.

As handsets improve and wireless data networks grow faster, it's a generally acknowledged fact that the market for mobile gaming will grow to become massive before the end of the decade. A report from Frost & Sullivan earlier this year claimed that in 2001, the mobile gaming industry generated revenues of just USD436.4 million from downloadable, message- or Web-based games. By 2008, however, the industry will be worth a massive USD9.34 billion.

With these kinds of figures in mind, the Mobile Games Interoperability Forum (MGIF) publicly released its v1.0 specifications on Monday. The specs release represents one of the first steps toward addressing the many portability and interoperability issues that the industry faces. For example, many "play anywhere" Java-based mobile games must be re-written to run on different handsets -- all of which have varying ways in which users input commands.

With the new set of rules, game developers and handset makers will be one step closer to resolving this and other issues and will have a basic set of common, reusable functionalities in the form of programming APIs (application program interfaces). These are among the core functionalities for server-based mobile games.

"Since its inception, mobile gaming has been fragmented because of a lack of standards and a plethora of portability and interoperability issues," said Paul Goode of Motorola, chairman of the MGIF. "This specification is about lowering the technical barriers so that the entertainment industry can exploit the great potential of mobile phones as a channel to market."

Goode also said the MGIF v1.0 specs will provide benefits for all stakeholders in the mobile gaming space, including developers, publishers, platform companies, operators, handset manufacturers and end users. The latest specs could also pave the way for future standardisation in the industry, MGIF said.

Along with the announcement, the organisation said it would soon be integrated into another industry group, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), a newly launched standards body established to make mobile technologies more interoperable. Currently, the OMA is in the process of incorporating the Wireless Application Protocol Forum, the Wireless Village initiative, the SyncML Initiative Ltd, the Location Interoperability Forum and the MMS-IOP group.

The MGIF is an industry forum founded in July 2001 by Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Siemens. The group said that following the publication of these new specifications, future focus within the MGIF will include addressing developer issues on the handset side. On 7 November in London, the MGIF will host a Requirements Workshop, gathering input on both server and handset issues to be addressed in later releases. For more information visit the group's Web site.

© ENN

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