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SavaJe falls quiet

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SavaJe, pioneer of the concept of a Java-based mobile phone, appears to have gone into hibernation, leaving a few million lines of code and a bunch of arguing venture capitalists.

UK staff have been sent home and told to keep their laptops in lieu of pay owed, at least until the dust settles, sources say.

The SavaJe concept was to sink Java down into the OS, moving telephony applications such as messaging and call management into the Java Virtual Machine to provide a more stable and flexible interface, with exposed Java APIs for enhanced capabilities.

This approach has been tried before with set-top boxes (Swisscom Blue Horizon) and desktop computers (Sun JavaOS) based entirely on Java, though generally these have resulted in expensive and embarrassing failure. Java is a great language, but it seems that trying to base an entire operating system on it might be a step too far.

Not that SavaJe didn't achieve considerable success: it produced a working prototype for developers, the Jasper, and even managed a customer or two, but it was too little too late for the company which raised $71m over the years and burnt through it all.

The question now is whether anything can be salvaged from the wreckage. If staff aren't paid off properly the company risks litigation, which will make it impossible to sell any IPR, but to pay them off the venture capitalists will need to come to an agreement for a little bit more cash to ensure a quick and painless death.

Meanwhile, other mobile platform companies have been quick to contact the engineers and developers who, won't be hanging around to see what happens to the carcass of SavaJe.

The company's UK offices are deserted, though people have been seen there in the last few days, and messages left with head office in the US have not been replied to.

The mobile phone business is extremely competitive, at every level, and a new entrant needs much more than just good technology to succeed. A great deal of money, some very patient backers, and quite a bit of luck all need to come together in just they way they didn't at SavaJe. ®

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