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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'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.
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.
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