BT, Intel develop 'instant messaging on steroids'

The first fruits of the Intel/BT joint development effort is likely to be a range of next-generation instant messaging products

Intel and BT are to create next-generation collaboration products, dubbed 'instant messaging on steroids', as part of their joint development effort announced earlier today.

Mick Reeves, chief technology office at BT's research subsidiary, BTexact, said the collaboration products would handheld computers to automatically sense one another and exchange relevant information. Other members into the group would be brought into the loop using always-on GPRS connections, said Reeves, speaking at the Intel Developer Forum in Amsterdam.

Intel and BT announced a joint development effort for wireless applications and services, aimed at next-generation handsets and mobile computers, as part of Intel's push to raise its profile in the wireless arena through a standardisation initiative called Personal Internet Client Architecture (PCA).

BT Wireless and the company's research subsidiary, BTexact Technologies, will both be involved, but both BT and Intel said no new funds will be involved in the project. Instead, perhaps showing prudence in the current age of stock market woe, the companies said they will be redirecting funds already being used for wireless development. On Intel's side, "dozens" of researchers from Intel Architecture Labs will be involved, according to Ron Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Wireless Computing and Communications Group.

Telecommunications network providers have spent billions on 3G network licenses and are committed to spending billions more on building the infrastructure. As a result, they are desperate to find next-generation applications that will appeal to consumers and professionals and begin to pay back those expenses.

That is also the logic behind Intel's PCA, which aims to dramatically speed up the process of developing wireless applications. PCA is a development blueprint that proposes separating out the communications and computing systems in a wireless processor, so that the computing element can be standardised.

That would mean that, as in the PC world, efficient applications could be designed to run on a number of different devices with a standard instruction set, rather than being hand-customised for each device, as is necessary today. Intel suggested the time to market for applications could be decreased from 18 months to ten days.

"This is the only way wireless is going to keep pace with the Internet overall," said Intel's Smith.

Applications and services from the BT-Intel collaboration will be designed for the PCA architecture, and it has been endorsed by a number of application developers, carriers and handset makers.

Intel doesn't have any 3G license debt to pay off, but its interest in speeding up the next generation is clear: "It means an increase in demand for memory and processing power, and that's music to our ears," Smith said.

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