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Openwave's V7 Mobile Browser: Enhancing Phone Usability

Openwave's V7 Mobile Browser: Enhancing Phone Usability

With the advent of Phoneware and with V7 in particular, there is now a much richer mobile phone platform to deploy content for. What does this mean for handset manufacturers, carriers, and developers?

When friends and acquaintances ask who I work for, I say Openwave and observe the perplexed look on their faces. I am then quick to mention that our business is all about WAP, MMS, and wireless. If I worked for Nokia, everyone would recognize the company brand right away, even though Openwave software is present on more mobile phones. The difference is that Openwave is behind the scenes, providing the technology that makes mobile data work.

For this reason, I always take a minute to explain that a lot of popular phones run our browser (of course, I am careful not to sound too pedantic). Occasionally, people mention that they recognized the Openwave logo on the display of their mobile phones when they hit the Internet button. When I hear that, I get a little satisfaction.

An Old-Timer
The Openwave browser has been around for quite some time. Its first incarnations date back to 1995, when Openwave (or Unwired Planet, as it was called at the time) released its first HDML browser. The idea was to bring the Internet to mobile phones, while keeping within the limitations of the medium. Since then we have been on an upward trend. Version 4 of the browser (1998) marked the advent of WAP. A couple of years later Version 5 (V5) brought colors and a more interactive experience. The current browser (V6) embraces WAP2 and the transition to XHTML, converging with the broader Web.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at Openwave's next-generation browser, V7, to see what handset manufacturers, carriers, and developers can expect. As you'll see, client software has become much more than the browser.

Capabilities of the V7 Client Software
The V7 Browser is part of Openwave's new line of client software, called Openwave Phone Suite Version 7, a set of integrated mobile applications built to a flexible, modular architecture, including:

  • Openwave V7 Browser: Builds on Openwave's industry-leading WAP 2.0 browser, with support for both XHTML-MP and CSS. At a feature level it offers multimedia support, download, and push services as well as useful applications such as bookmarks and snapshots.
  • Openwave Mobile Messaging Client: A single integrated mobile-messaging client enabling multimedia messaging (MMS), enhanced messaging (EMS), and short messaging (SMS).
  • Openwave Mobile File and Application Manager: A comprehensive file system that allows for local storage and management of content, including Java and multimedia content.
  • V7 Framework: The architecture underpinning Openwave's application suite and powering V7's rich customization capabilities with its advanced graphics engine (see Figure 1). Manufacturers and selected partners building applications to the framework benefit from its rich graphical interfaces and the ability to integrate with other applications. Openwave's preintegration of the Real Networks RealOne Player with V7 is a great example of this, offering handset manufacturers a rapid, low-risk implementation of streaming video for massmarket phones.

     

    All of the V7 applications, including the Browser, are integrated, allowing end users to move seamlessly from one to another. Built to the underlying framework, they share V7's advanced graphics engine that delivers capabilities such as alpha-blending, supporting image transparencies, and giving users the ability to preview pictures without opening them, as well as zooming and cool menus. All of these bring the overall user experience to new heights of quality.

    Overview of the V7 Architecture
    V7 offers manufacturers an integrated mobile-messaging client and browser application, built to an embedded middleware layer, the V7 Framework, which houses core-shared resources such as: Openwave's advanced 2D graphics engine; Java application manager; and services such as the network stack, memory management, and file manager. Additional applications preintegrated with the V7 framework currently include the Aplix JBlend JVM and the RealNetworks RealOne Player.

    Core benefits of the V7 architecture include:

  • Small footprint: V7 applications share resources and code housed in the framework layer, minimizing ROM requirements.
  • Low memory requirements: V7 is designed to enable dynamic memory management and reuse of system resources, thereby minimizing RAM requirements.
  • Simplified integration: With applications built to the framework layer, porting and integration is reduced to a single effort.
  • Extensibility: Application updates are decoupled from platform integration, enabling manufacturers to easily update the software on specific phone models.

    V7 is a great example of software in the emerging category of Phoneware (see sidebar). Nokia's Series 60 for Symbian also fits within this category. However, Openwave's software is distinct in a couple of ways:
    1. It covers a far broader range of phones. Openwave has already announced that V7 will be available for Linux, and is continuing to focus on delivering expanded functionality to phones utilizing existing embedded operating systems, or RTOS.
    2. As it was born and evolved on (and for) small phones, V7 has far greater reach and relevance than competing phoneware solutions, making it the rational and cost-efficient way to deliver rich applications to the mass market of mobile phones.

    What's in It for Developers?
    Having mentioned how V7 benefits handset manufacturers, it is also worth taking a look at what V7 means for developers. The good news is that, with the advent of Phoneware and with V7 in particular, there is now a much richer mobile phone platform to deploy content for (see Figures 2–4).

     

    For example, Openwave's integration of RealOne Player with V7:

  • Integrates high-quality audio/video experience into mass-market handsets, ensuring that the installed base of video-ready phones grows quickly.
  • Brings new revenue-generating services to market quickly and at low risk.
  • Supports a wide range of codecs including RealAudio/RealVideo, 3GPP, MPEG-4, and MP3.
  • Integrates with other Version 7 applications to allow users to move seamlessly between RealOne Player and other phone functions.

    Conclusion
    Just as the desktop browser has evolved into the operating environment for many applications, so the browser in a mobile phone is becoming central to the handset's operation, with everything beyond the basic voice-call functionality moving toward integration with the browser. Version 7 of the Openwave browser provides greater flexibility in the interface, and more opportunities for integrated content and services. As device capabilities increase, Openwave presents another step toward a more compelling model for data services, even if it's one most consumers will never notice is there.

    Embedded middleware is software that glues together everything that a phone needs to do, mediating between phone hardware and a core set of integrated mobile applications to deliver a consistent user experience. It forms a key element of phoneware, providing the utilities, services, and components necessary to deliver messaging, browsing, and download applications across different execution environments.

    Phoneware helps manufacturers address operator service requirements in a compelling and cost-efficient manner. By implementing a core set of integrated, interoperable applications, manufacturers can accelerate development time while also ensuring a consistent and seamless user experience.

    At the same time, embedded middleware allows applications to share resources and code, thereby minimizing footprint requirements. Since applications are written to this embedded layer, multiple applications can now be supported from a single porting and integration effort, promoting greater production efficiency.

    Further, by writing core applications to an embedded middleware layer, manufacturers significantly enhance the flexibility of their phone platform. Application updates are separated from phone-layer integration and manufacturers can leverage a single interface for customization of phone look, feel, and behavior. Moreover, this use of shared resources permits a higher degree of integration between applications, enhancing phone usability.

    THE ROLE OF PHONEWARE
    The requirements placed on mobile phones are increasing substantially as services evolve from voice only, to voice plus wireless Internet, plus Multimedia Messaging (MMS), plus Java downloads. Implementing a wider range of applications on existing phone platforms requires manufacturers to take a long look at how best to manage integration costs while maintaining phone performance. Most of Openwave's manufacturer customers already recognize this challenge and are actively addressing it by building their own embedded middleware, leveraging browser software to manage application requirements through the sharing of common resources.

    This new focus on how to implement an expanding range of capabilities on existing phone systems is resulting in demand for a new class of software that can weave together applications on the phone in a consistent manner for the user while maximizing production efficiencies – phoneware.

    PHONEWARE = INTEGRATED MOBILE APPLICATIONS + EMBEDDED MIDDLEWARE

  • More Stories By Luca Passani

    Luca Passani, a Technical Advisory Board Member of of WBT, is Tools Development Manager for Openwave Systems, where he has led the OUI project. Luca has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Pisa and several years of experience in Web development in Scandinavia. Over the past few years Luca has been working almonst exclusively with WAP. He is the author of several technical articles about WAP and WAP-related programming techniques and is a coauthor of "Professional WAP" (Wrox Press, 2001).

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