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Microsoft spin-off debuts 'snack-sized' browsing

Zumobi, formerly known as ZenZui, promises to offer a new way of delivering targeted content to mobile-phone users
By David Meyer, Contributor
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1 of 3 David Meyer/ZDNET

A Microsoft spin-off company has released a beta version of a new mobile application which it claims will deliver targeted content in a new way.

Zumobi — until Tuesday known as ZenZui — made its debut at a Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) event in March of this year, having emerged through the Microsoft IP Ventures scheme. IP Ventures spins out technology from Microsoft Research to entrepreneurs in order to build on various new technologies.

"The beta version of the product that we're now launching will offer consumers an exciting new set of mobile features and functionality that helps them stay on top of the things that are important to them personally and have fun doing it," said Zumobi's chief executive, Eric Hertz, on Tuesday.

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2 of 3 David Meyer/ZDNET

Rather than being a traditional browser, Zumobi is based on the idea of "snack-sized" bits of information, targeted to the user's preferences, being distributed from various content providers.

Starting with a grid of 16 tiles, the user can then click on phone keys to zoom in and out of the content. This is done by first zooming into a block of four tiles, then the specific tile that the user wants to see.

Because the platform is theoretically open and device-neutral — although it only supports Windows Mobile at the moment — Zumobi hopes to attract web developers who want to target a broad range of handsets. Similarly, the company hopes that content providers will be attracted both by the proposed breadth of supported devices and what it calls "an attractive revenue-sharing model".

Compatibility with the BlackBerry and certain Java-enabled handsets should be coming up in the second quarter of next year, according to Zumobi.

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3 of 3 David Meyer/ZDNET

Zumobi claims that its background data-caching technology will eliminate loading delays. The company is also keen to highlight what it calls its "novel zooming user interface (ZUI)", apparently the product of years of research into human-computer interaction by Zumobi's co-founder, Dr Ben Bederson.

The company hopes that communities of interest will be formed around Zumobi's content tiles, which it says can be easily sent between users.

Zumobi's beta application will be available to the general public on 14 December. The software development kit (SDK) will be made available to developers at the same time.

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