Brew 2004


Qualcomm has been having it's Brew 2004 conference down in sunny San Diego this week. It's has caused a rush of PR news items as the various vendors and partners announce the latest and greatest from the convention. We even have an announcement ourselves ;-).

Honestly, in my mind Brew has had quite a bit of buzz lately even before this week's blitz of news. I'm not totally surprised, but one would think that because it is a closed platform unlike J2ME or Symbian, it wouldn't be doing well. But instead it seems to be quite successful and getting more buzz daily. There was an article from a report released just the other day showing that the numbers indicate that for now at least, Brew based apps are selling better than J2ME apps - even though there are many, many more Java phones out there. I mean, Verizon's sold 34 million downloads since the beginning of the year!!! I thought Sprint was doing well! That's pretty amazing stuff.

My guess is that this is because of the ecosystem around the Brew platform and the tight coupling of operator and distribution system. I've written about the BDS before and I think it's the right strategy. Just click and play - all the billing just happens. So even though developers would normally lean towards platforms that don't need certifications that cost thousands of dollars in order to distribute their app, the proven commercial aspects of Brew are starting to generate a lot of interest. And with 30+ million Brew handsets out there, it seems that they really are the second most popular "OS" behind Java, no? I can't remember the Symbian numbers right now, but 30 million seems like a lot.

All that said, it's amazing how little I know about Brew actually. One of my coworkers just emailed to ask me whether Verizon's LG VX6000 is a good phone and I have *no* idea. The stats look good, but is it better or worse than some other CDMA phone? I have no idea. From a big Qualcomm believer like myself, this is an odd place to be. I need to get up to speed on this stuff! The problem is that, like Symbian, I'm not a C/C++ programmer so I won't be programming for their OS anytime soon and that ends up restricting some of my understanding. Still, that's not an excuse for not learning more about the underlying tech. We'll be getting more Brew phones so I'll have the chance to really grok this stuff soon, I hope.

I really should've tried to wrangle my way down to San Diego for the convention - I would've learned a ton there. Since I consider Qualcomm and by proxy, Brew, an integral part of the future of mobility, this is important stuff to know. There doesn't seem to be anyone blogging the convention, but it turns out that Mobenta was there covering the floor with daily blog-like reports, IGN has news from the games angle and NE Asia Online has video. So between these sites and the daily convention newspaper, I've gotten a good idea of what's going on. Still, it's so nice to be somewhere like this in person to get the scoop directly from the people working with the tech.

Here's a quote from the Mobenta report:

Today was filled with meetings with a ton of different mobile developers and handset manufacturers, encompassing a wide range of the BREW-enabled field. First, however, came an interesting presentation from Vivo, Brazil's leading mobile operator. Vivo was launched only a year ago at BREW 2003, and they already have a customer base numbering 23 million, which is good for about 45% of the Brazilian mobile market. If all goes according to plan, Vivo may be the #6 operator in the world by year's end -- right behind a little company called Verizon Wireless. Vivo also showed off an interesting viral marketing scheme called "Vivo em Açao," which has subscribers gather clues throughout the spectrum of Vivo's mobile services -- such as SMS messages and browsers -- concerning a mysterious organization called Blackfish. A Blackfish spy has made off with some mobile prototypes, and it's your job to unravel the conspiracy; with said clues in hand, you can go online and play a noir-ish Flash game, which will occasionally ask you for passwords garnered from the mobile services to advance the story. Those who complete the mystery quickly gain the chance to win mobile phones, PS2s, and other prizes. According to Vivo, 1.2 million players have hit the trail in search of Blackfish so far.

I'm still amazed at Verizon's announcement. 34 million downloads this year, 70 million since 2002. Amazing. Here are their top 10 games (out of the 520 they have available):

  1. Tetris® by Blue Lava Wireless
  2. PAC-MAN® by Namco
  3. JAMDAT Bowling by JAMDAT
  4. Ms. PAC-MAN® by Namco
  5. Frogger by Upstart Games
  6. Heads Up Hold’em by Grind Games
  7. EA Sports™ Tiger Woods PGA Tour® Golf by JAMDAT
  8. Downtown Texas Hold’em by Downtown Wireless
  9. Solitaire by JAMDAT
  10. Bejeweled by JAMDAT

Notice something about those apps? Most seem to be by JAMDAT and none really incorporate networking (unless you can play poker against someone else). That to me is quite telling and shows a real opportunity. In theory CDMA should be *the* platform to develop mobile internet-based applications, so I think we're going to see this list start to change soon towards more connected apps. I've used both GPRS, EDGE and CDMA2000 1x and for some reason - maybe it's the latency or something - it just seems like you're more connected using CDMA. Maybe it's just me, I'm not sure.

Anyways, I've got to get my hands on some more Verizon phones and play. ;-)


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