Qualcomm courts European developers for GSM Brew-up

US mobile phone company Qualcomm is working towards getting its answer to Java J2ME working on GSM phones, and is courting European developers

Qualcomm is gearing up its Brew software development platform, which the company claims can provide better, faster and more engaging games on mobile devices than Java.

Sun Microsystems' Java platform has been adopted by many of the large mobile phone manufacturers to deliver mobile gaming. Although the Brew platform can compete with it directly, Java can also run alongside Brew, enabling handsets to be compatible with both platforms.

At the Brew developers conference in London on Thursday, Qualcomm announced it was going to pile more resources into the platform to help European developers build applications and games for Brew. The company is increasing the number of staff in its European offices and said it is in participating in "trialling activities" with various operators to port the platform to GSM chipsets. However, Qualcomm would not give any details of who was involved, when any Brew-compatible platforms might be available in Europe, in what quantities or at what prices.

Johan Lodenius, senior vice president of European Business at Qualcomm, said handsets could be Brew-enabled with the aid of a small amount of code: "We believe the phones could be built in a short timeframe -- weeks or a few months. One of the key things for Europe is to tie in with existing platforms to support Java, iMode or whatever," he said.

Developers at the conference were touting the advantages of building games on Brew over Java. Scott Lahman, president of publishing at wireless games developer Jamdat, said the platform is better than Java for developers because Sun's platform has become diluted, and is not as rigid as it first promised: "There has been some breakdown in the whole point of Java -- they have perhaps taken the open platform so far that it is basically a guideline. Brew is more consistent because there is an advocate that is tightly controlling the roadmap," he said.

Mike Grant, vice president of marketing and strategy at mobile application developer Superscape, said implementing 3D applications in Java takes much longer than with Brew: "If you look at the implementation of 3D graphics in the Java environment, it has taken us two years to get to the point where we have the first handsets come to market. With Brew, we have done it in six months," he said.

Qualcomm's Lodenius clarified that Brew will not be targeting the high-end business applications market, which he said the company will leave to Microsoft and Symbian: "There are things they [Microsoft and Symbian] are doing that we are not even going to attempt -- very high performance near-laptop type of things, but we think that is only 5 or 10 percent of the market. It is not the most lucrative from the device or the service revenue perspective," he said.