Thoughts about Qualcomm and BREW


There's a very interesting article over in Software Development Online about BREW almost from a Java developer's perspective. It's got a nice overview of what BREW is (a os-like platform rather than a J2ME competitor) and some basics about developing for BREW that I didn't realize before. It's a closed development environment like Mophun, so in order to sell your apps, you gott give Qualcomm some cash first. I didn't know that.

If you want to develop BREW applications, you have to live the BREW Experience. You�ll most likely need Visual Studio in addition to the BREW software development kit. And you�ll need to get a VeriSign Class 3 certificate ($400 per year for up to 100 applications deployed). Oh, and then you�ll need to sign on to the BREW developer program, at one of three levels of tool, technical and marketing support: Developer (free), Select Developer ($5,000 annually) and Elite Developer ($15,000 annually). But that�s not all, folks! Once you�ve got your application ready to go, at least some of the operators supporting the platform require it to endure �True BREW� testing�expect to pay between $750 and $2,500 per application, depending on how much of the BREW API your app uses.

Wow... I don't know how I overlooked that in the past. The prices are definitely a showstopper for us little guys, but that may not be a big deal to Qualcomm. I mean, most J2ME apps are crap right now anyways - with only basic functionality and bugs. The only really professional quality apps are created by the bigger software houses like EA or gameloft. Qualcomm isn't stopping those guys from developing, just the random developer.

The cool thing is that I just learned the other day that BREW phones with API version 2.0 include J2ME thanks to a recent deal with Sun. That opens up the other of the fence to development. Right now, it's like this parallel mobile universe. We GSM guys all have our candy-bar phones running J2ME and random OSes (Symbian, Microsoft, what have you) and the CDMA guys all have their flip phones and BREW apps. There are massive numbers of CDMA users, but to me here in Europe, they all seem so very far away in the U.S. or Asia. But the fact is that this is going to change, and soon.

I'm intrigued by Qualcomm and BREW, though I doubt that I'll ever be developing for the platform because I'm not a C++ programmer. First, Qualcomm is the 800lb gorilla in the CDMA space and they are going to set a lot of trends as the world moves to 3G. This means that technologies like BREW are going to come with a lot of futre, more powerful phones, pushed by Qualcomm, surely, as packaged deals with their chipsets.

One of the reasons I was considering San Diego above my beloved Bay Area was its proximity to Qualcomm. There's a lot of activity going on down there already in the wireless space, I think even Nokia's U.S. headquarters is there. If you think of the next generation of mobile technology not as the Nokia era, but the Qualcomm era, San Diego might just be the place to be. Like Silicon Valley got its boost from HP, Intel and Apple and the Seattle area got its boost from Microsoft. I mean, why is Amazon in Seattle instead of the Bay Area? Why is Real Media?

Anyways, speaking of CDMA, I discovered this great news site the other day called The 3G Portal which had a few articles and comments which talked about how CDMA phones don't have SIM cards, but it's not something that's inherent in the technology. I didn't realize this. China-Unicom's CDMA phones all have SIM cards in them and in the U.K., "3"'s phones also use a special 3G SIM card which is even compatible with some GSM phones. This is all news to me. One of the most compelling advantages that GSM implementations has over CDMA (at least in Europe and the U.S.) is the ability to move your SIM cards around to new phones and keep your phone number and contacts, etc. I wonder if the American CDMA providers will ever smarten up about this?

A few years ago, Qualcomm just meant to me the weird company that made those Palm phones. Seriously. I had no idea who they were, or even why they had a name on a stadium (is that still there?). Now that 3G is nearing, we're starting to see the company emerge from the shadows. Depending on how it leverages its patents (its legal monopoly on CDMA tech) it could easily become the next Microsoft, the next super-influential American company that influences markets and drives innovation. It should be interesting to see what happens and how it works out. Very compelling.


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