Wireless world showcased

A futuristic world of wireless devices and wire-free Internet access was touted at the Symbian Developer Conference and Exhibition in Santa Clara this week.

Symbian is a joint venture between Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, Panasonic, and Psion, and was launched in 1998 to set wireless standards and develop a market for wireless systems.

It was revealed at the conference that Symbian this year will release initial specifications for wireless system user interfaces that provide the features for personal digital assistants and Internet access. The specifications, called Device Family Reference Designs, include Quartz, for handheld devices without keyboards; Crystal, for personal digital assistants with keyboards; and Pearl, for smartphones. The devices are expected to support e-commerce, information access, and financial applications, among others.

"We haven't seen half of the kinds of services [that could be developed for the systems]," said Colly Myers, CEO of Symbian.

Symbian officials focused on Quartz, which features handwriting recognition, voice recording, a clock, and a calculator. Developers will be able to write Java or C++ applications for Quartz devices. The systems will be able to synchronise with e-mail systems and access HTML and Wireless Application Protocol systems.

Quartz is due midyear, with an initial Quartz-compliant product is expected to ship by the end of the year, company officials said.

Another key part of Symbian's work is the EPOC operating system. It was announced that IBM and Symbian are co-developing wireless applications for EPOC-based phones and communicators to enable users to access data in real time and work with it offline. The applications will include CRM (customer relationship management) offerings for the transportation and travel sectors, sales force automation applications, and a way of reaching a company's suppliers and distributors, an IBM representative said.

Key IBM technology to be utilised will include the MQSeries Everywhere messaging software and the DB/2 Everywhere database. It is also likely that future releases of Lotus' Mobile Notes will be supported by Symbian devices, the representative added.

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