BREWing up business

Qualcomm's announcement of its deal with Oracle to BREW-enable Oracle 9i Lite has turned heads in the wireless industry, suggesting that it's time to take BREW seriously as a mobile enterprise app platform. But can BREW move beyond games and into the busi

Until recently, Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) looked like it would always play second fiddle to Sun's Java 2 Micro Edition as the platform of choice for bringing enterprise applications to mobile phones and PDAs.

But Qualcomm announced its plan on June 5th to work with Oracle to BREW-enable Oracle 9i Lite. As a result, BREW is being taken seriously--much more seriously--in the nascent wireless computing business.

BREW, like J2ME and Symbian's Symbian OS, is a vendor-neutral, applications execution and development platform for handheld devices. As such, it sits right above the hardware and can run with many different device operating systems such as Palm OS. It's also an open standards and open application programming interface (API) platform. It is not, however, open source.

For now, BREW only works with Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) devices. Theoretically, BREW can work with any device, and Qualcomm is planning on porting it soon to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). Regardless of platform, BREW requires little memory (150KB), making BREW applications workable even on low-end phones. Despite this minimal memory requirement, BREW is designed for client-side applications. This means users will be able to play games and run calculations without having to wait for server-side processors over a slow connection.

Like Symbian OS, BREW is primarily for C++ programmers, but due to industry pressure, Qualcomm is working with IBM to make BREW more Java friendly. Thanks to BREW's open standards and API, it's possible to write to BREW in many other languages, such as XML.

If you're sensing a theme here of BREW being able to work with a wide variety of devices, operating systems, standards, and languages, you're right. Unlike Microsoft's Windows CE "Stinger" technology or other similar approaches, Qualcomm is meant to be system and network agnostic. No matter what your mobile device or carrier, Qualcomm wants you to be able to run BREW-enabled applications on it. More precisely, Qualcomm wants to sell carriers on BREW. With the aid of independent software vendors, the carriers can then deliver BREW applications across their product lines.

Even though BREW appears to be so vendor friendly, Qualcomm has had trouble getting carriers to buy it. The company's greatest success has come in Korea with KTF and Japan's KDDI. In the United States, Qualcomm's biggest win to date has been with Verizon Wireless and its nationwide BREW launch. Qualcomm is also working with Alltel and U.S. Cellular, but here in the U.S., even pilot projects have yet to be announced. Still, with Oracle's support and the Verizon launch, BREW may be poised to become a major wireless application player.

Will you consider using BREW for your company's mobile applications?TalkBack below or e-mail us with your thoughts.