Qualcomm Unveils Its New BREW
Wireless: Verizon Eyes Nationwide Rollout in May
by BRAD GRAVES
BREW has made its stateside debut.
As of March 18, the Qualcomm Inc. software , which lets mobile phone users load simple business applications and games onto their handsets , is being distributed by carrier Verizon Wireless.
For now, Bedminster, N.J.-based Verizon only offers BREW in San Diego County. Verizon plans to take the service nationwide in late May, said Verizon Wireless spokesman Andrew Colley.
Only one other carrier in the world, KTFreeTel, offers BREW commercially. The South Korean carrier launched BREW in November under the name Magic N Multipack.
Verizon is selling the service by offering two BREW-equipped handsets: a Sharp Z-800 with a color screen, and a Kyocera 3035e with a black-and-white screen. The Sharp costs $400 while the Kyocera costs $150. Buyers must also sign a two-year Verizon service agreement.
Verizon is selling the handsets at its own stores as well as certain Radio Shack retailers.
BREW stands for Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless. With a few thumb clicks of a button, a customer can call into Verizon's BREW server, browse the selection of applications and download the ones he likes , for nominal fees.
For example, a customer might buy 10 games of Speed Blackjack for $1.20. The game comes complete with a Vegas-style dealer clad in long gloves.
Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" , or your choice of 250 other tunes , can be programmed as your telephone ring tone. The abbreviated tune (it's the first four bars) costs $1.
BREW software then helps the carrier bill the client. Revenues are shared between the game developer, the carrier (in this case Verizon) and Qualcomm.
Information on how those revenues are split was not available.
In the past, Qualcomm has declined to say exactly what percentage of a carrier's BREW-related revenue it will get.
Alison Graves, director of marketing for Qualcomm Internet Services, said "a majority" of the money goes to the application developer.
A carrier like Verizon can choose what applications they can offer via BREW and might even choose to offer popular software as a loss leader, said Graves.
A variety of companies are developing BREW software, and Verizon is offering 13 early releases. Software writers include Walt Disney Internet Group; EA; ESPN; Jamdat Mobile, Inc.; Mattel, Inc., and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. San Diego-based Inetcam Inc. and MP3.com are developing BREW applications, as is Qualcomm subsidiary Wireless Knowledge, Inc.
When a client is tired of an application, or needs more space in the phone's memory, he can disable an application or remove it entirely.
Qualcomm and Verizon spokespeople said BREW is a technically superior platform for running software on a phone. It takes up little memory and it's robust.
"Nothing comes close," said Verizon's Colley.
But it's not the only mobile phone software platform. Competitors include Sun Microsystems' Java platform.
Verizon publicists said the company would use its San Diego experience to prepare for BREW's introduction in other areas of the country.