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Mobile gaming initiative gains OMA backing

Yet another attempt to standardise mobile gaming

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The Mobile Gaming Initiative has gained backing from the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and formed a Game Services Working Group within the OMA to look at standards in mobile gaming.

Nokia, Samsung, SK Telecom, Square-Enix, Symbian, Tao Group, and Texas Instruments have all signed up to the working group which will "define and support an open gaming specification for premium-quality native games".

The use of the term "native" is what's interesting here - when the Mobile Gaming Initiative was launched it was more explicit, stating its objective was to "openly support development, testing, and deployment of premium quality games on major high-level operating systems, including Microsoft Windows Mobile, Linux, Symbian OS, and mobile operators' terminal platforms like WIPI GIGA of SK Telecom".

Java is not included, or mentioned, but Java is standardised within the Java Community Process and therefore needs no working group in the OMA to guide its development. The vast majority of mobile games sold are based on Java, and with the capabilities rapidly expanding to include 3D graphics, decent sound and greater connectivity, there is little reason to look to native development on any platform with decent Java support.

Native applications should run a little faster than Java versions, though that lead is rapidly diminishing, leaving the only reason to "go native" being the ability to utilise hardware-specific features such as side buttons or jog-dials. But such features cannot form part of any standard, as by their very nature they are not standard, and the most popular games on mobiles remain basic puzzles and strategy games which make little call on advanced hardware: being used to fill the minutes travelling, or waiting to travel.

The whole Mobile Gaming Initiative looks suspiciously like Nokia desperately trying to push its N-Gauge platform. Samsung and Tao will sign up to anything these days and Symbian needs to push itself as a credible alternative to Java for games development if it isn't going to drown under an ever-more-capable Java Virtual Machine.

The OMA is an important body, and any standard which comes out of it warrants attention, but the members of the Game Services Working Group are going to have to come up with very compelling reasons why Java is not the solution if they aren't going to fade in to insignificance as the previous attempts have done. ®

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