Nokia has unveiled a system for hosting, delivering and charging for entertainment and application content for mobile phones, called Preminet.
"This is essentially a hosted open-service model for Java and Symbian software from Nokia with a master catalogue, a service delivery platform and an optional purchasing client application," said Steen Thygesen, director of Platform Solutions, Forum Nokia, at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's (CTIA's) Wireless IT and Entertainment conference in San Francisco.
"We want to remove barriers to the take-up of content by end-users as a way of driving revenue, not only through the sale of content but the sale of replacement handsets as users upgrade their phones to ones that can handle rich content," he said.
Preminet provides operators with precertified content such as ringtones, graphics, games and video that the operator can brand and offer over the web, or via SMS and Wap over cellular networks based on GSM or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).
The service is combined with a system for delivery, billing and revenue distribution among developers, operators and Nokia, although operators can pick and choose the parts of Preminet to implement.
The concept of Nokia's Preminet is similar to the Brew development platform for mobile devices from Qualcomm, a one-stop shop for Brew developers to get applications tested, certified and distributed to Brew carriers.
"As soon as Qualcomm came out with Brew, the picture changed towards one where everything is all managed, and Nokia has been moving steadily closer to that," said Keith Waryas, research manager for wireless business network services at IDC. "Preminet is an evolution rather that revolution for Nokia."
In February, Nokia took one of its first steps towards the Brew model when it joined with Sun Microsystems, Motorola, Siemens and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications to create the Java Verified Process, a process for testing and certifying Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) applications for wireless handheld devices in the same fashion as Brew.
Applications certified by the Java Verified Process receive a stamp of approval in the form of the Java Powered Logo, although it does not provide a standard means for distribution.
Sun quickly moved to offer an aggregated list of J2ME content from developers on its Java.com website, from where Sun could deliver the applications to operators.
"I think that Nokia has an advantage over Sun in offering an end-to-end solution because historically, if you're a carrier, you don't do a whole lot of business with Sun," Waryas said.
Nokia should have little difficulty rolling out Preminet, as many of the system's pieces are already in place, he said, but added that Nokia will face other challenges.
"By putting in some of the pricing structures now, you're putting up some walls and that always presents challenges," Waryas said. "Nokia will have to figure out how best to explain to the operator how this walled structure works out to be in the operator's best interest."
Thygesen said that by allowing developers and operators to select the parts of Preminet it wants to use, Nokia is leaving its partners in control of their businesses.
"But we do point out that by using the end-to-end solution, operators have the ability to launch a branded service in a very simple manner without major investment," he said.
Nokia launched Preminet worldwide and expects a complete commercial deployment by the end of November, Thygesen said.
Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service