3 looks to Brew up applications

Qualcomm finally gets Brew apps into the UK?

Qualcomm has proudly announced that UK operator 3 is intending to sell handsets incorporating Qualcomm's Brew technology, though it's not saying when, or which handsets exactly.

A full Brew deployment by a network operator is much more than a handset application environment, requiring considerable server-side infrastructure to support both application distribution and capabilities such as in-application billing and application rental.

It also means handsets locked down, with the network operator having compete control over what capabilities they allow their customers to have. Even installing a ring tone or changing a background graphic may require operator approval, which can frustrate users.

Qualcomm has been desperate to get Brew into Europe, but with very limited success in a market so dominated by Nokia. Nokia sees no reason to put more power into operators' hands and, in common with most manufacturers, it makes handsets which can (generally) take applications and content from anywhere. Operators might love the power, but few are geared up to manage handsets in the way Brew makes possible.

Developers creating Brew applications love the flexible billing, and have apparently used the platform to make over a billion dollars since it was launched in 2001 - the ability for in-game charging and rental models increases revenue considerably.

As all Brew applications are signed by the operator, the security risks are also largely mitigated; this means Brew applications can access low-level resources in a way that Java and Symbian hope to emulate with their respective signing programmes. As security becomes more of an issue on phones, Brew handsets are likely to lead the area for some time.

It seems unlikely 3 is going to stop selling phones from Nokia any time soon, so the question is what proportion of its handsets will be Brew-based, and what server-side support will 3 provide? Once we know that, we'll have a better idea if Qualcomm's triumphant tone is justified. ®

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