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A Look at Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW)

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While some might argue Qualcomm's shot at world domination of the cell phone transmission market, it's obvious that the company currently has good relations with many carriers and handset manufacturers worldwide. In fact, Qualcomm is currently so friendly with both carriers and manufacturers that it's managed to slip a "shim" (or wedge, if you will) between the two; or, more specifically, into the system that goes between a cell network and a handset. Qualcomm's shim, called BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), allows mobile developers to put code directly into a user's handset and execute it without worrying about network-level events, such as breaks for SMS messages. The resulting consumer goodies (such as location-based services, games, and specialized ring tones) are delivered directly to the user's handset by the cell network, usually by subscription, with profits shared by the developer, the carrier, and Qualcomm itself.

Qualcomm markets BREW as a kind of all-around application development and distribution platform for mobile developers: you build the app on the BREW SDK, send it to Qualcomm for certification, and Qualcomm distributes it to the carriers for you. The numbers show that the combination is proving addictive for a growing number of wireless developers (see Resources), but there is a hitch: unlike Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME), BREW is proprietary technology, and apps developed using the BREW SDK must be certified by Qualcomm before they can be distributed.

Qualcomm's BREW is proving an increasingly addictive end-to-end wireless development solution, although it does come with a hitch. In this month's Roaming charges, Larry Loeb chats with the folks at Qualcomm about the pros and cons of the company's security certification system, then taste tests BREW's highly caffeinated code for himself.
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