Swedish company offers I-mode alternative

Taking on NTT DoCoMo and its European partners, Sweden's BlueFactory AB has presented what it calls an "I-mode-inspired services...

Taking on NTT DoCoMo and its European partners, Sweden's BlueFactory AB has presented what it calls an "I-mode-inspired services platform".

Dubbed Garbo, the product allows mobile telecommunication operators to host mobile Internet services, which can be created in-house or fed from a content provider, handle billing on a subscription or per usage basis and collect customer data, BlueFactory said.

Garbo has "clear I-mode similarities", BlueFactory said in a statement, piggybacking on the success of the I-mode service offered by NTT DoCoMo in Japan. The Japanese operator is working with KPN Mobile NV and Telecom Italia Mobile SpA to bring the service to Europe; its launch is scheduled for late 2001 or early 2002.

In Japan, I-mode services are based on Compact HyperText Markup Language (CHTML), which is only supported by some handsets. Garbo uses SMS, WAP and Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME) to deliver its services, which are standards that are supported by all major handset vendors.

The difference between I-mode and the conventional WAP services that have been offered in Europe is that DoCoMo can bill by service accessed, whereas currently, WAP operators can bill by minute of telephone time used only. Garbo, by contrast, does support service-specific billing.

"We are focused on existing technology. Garbo is independent on what handset you are using, it doesn't support CHTML," said John Wennerstrom, chief technology officer for BlueFactory.

Wennerstrom thinks BlueFactory's alternative to I-mode will suit the European market better.

"Japan has a gizmo culture; we don't in Europe," Wennerstrom said. "If you copy the I-mode concept and apply it to the European market, you will fail, because of cultural differences, client technology, and the technology adoption rate," he added.

BlueFactory has yet to sign its first Garbo customer, but Wennerstrom expects this to happen before the end of 2001.

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