Cell Phones

For years, Flash software has added pop and sizzle to Web pages, making possible animations, slide shows and interactive games. Now the graphic interface technology is coming to the mobile-phone screen.

Qualcomm and Adobe said they will create a version of Qualcomm?s BREW (binary run-time environment for wireless) ? a system for bringing games, news and other data to the mobile screen ? that works with Flash. Qualcomm said it is expanding BREW to enable iPhone-like widgets ? small programs delivering weather, sports scores or other information ? to be capable of running on all phones. Until last year, BREW applications worked only on phones using chips based on Qualcomm?s code-division multiple access (CDMA) and wideband CDMA technology.

At its heart, BREW is technology for cell phones and carrier networks to enable mobile games, downloadable ring tones and Web applications on phone screens. It serves as a catalyst for these data-based applications and includes systems to test the products developers create and for carriers to bill customers who download them.

The new, Flash-compatible BREW Mobile Platform will contribute to both the consumer experience and the so-called BREW ecosystem that connects developers and carriers such as Verizon Wireless, says Shiv Bakhshi, director of mobile devices technology and trends at market research firm IDC. ?It will definitely enhance the user experience, absolutely,? Bakhshi says. ?But what?s more significant is that it potentially adds all the Flash developers out there to the BREW developer community.?

While the number of people who play games, surf the Web or check stock prices on their cell phones remains a fraction of phone owners, it?s a growing fraction for BREW and competitors. ?Qualcomm announced that the developer community earned one billion dollars last year from BREW,? Bakhshi says. ?It?s definitely growing.?

One of the developers targeting BREW revenue is UI Magic, which makes widgets for BREW phones on the Alltel network on the East Coast. UI Magic products deliver college and
professional sports scores and news, along with weather and lottery results for fees ranging from 99 cents to $8.99 per month, says engineering director Scott Rocca.

Last year, Qualcomm began expanding BREW-related products to include applications, such as one from Major League Baseball, that deliver content to non-BREW phones through a service called Brand Xtend. The widget application, called Plaza, further opens the system. While the BREW system currently limits applications to those purchased directly from wireless carriers, Qualcomm hopes to open the system to allow any phone owner to purchase products from any developer, says Andrew Gilbert, Qualcomm executive vice president and president of Qualcomm Internet Services /MediaFLO Technologies and Qualcomm Europe. ?Assuming operator cooperation, it would open up more applications to more subscribers,? Gilbert says. ??? ?

Avoiding Data Disasters

Loss of data can hit small to midsize businesses that don?t keep up to date on file backups and data security. When a laptop is stolen, says Bobbie Gossage, senior editor for Inc. magazine, it can turn into a customer service nightmare ? companies must notify clients of stolen personal information.

To help recover laptops, companies may purchase programs such as MyLaptopGPS or Absolute Software?s Computrace LoJack in order to track the stolen computer. Once the thief connects to the Internet, the machine relays its location to the authorities. Other programs even allow you to delete files from the stolen computer, Gossage says.

A company?s best bet is to encrypt personal files on the hard drive. No one can use encrypted files, plus it saves the costs of having to notify clients of stolen information. Gossage suggests backing up hard drives on a continual basis to keep data safe. Online programs like Mozy or EVault back up information for a monthly fee of about $10 per employee.

To keep the virus protection software up to date, Gossage recommends programs such as Postini, which eliminates viruses from e-mails before they enter your inbox. Or application whitelisting gives the IT department the authority to approve programs before they are downloaded on employee computers.

If an employee suspects a break-in by hackers, immediately take the Web site offline, contact the authorities, tell credit bureaus and customers, and hire a security firm to examine the situation. To prepare for possible hackers, Gossage suggests first encrypting important customer information. Another option is a service called McAfee Secure, which checks your site every day for security vulnerability. The program costs about $1,700 a year, but searches for hacker loopholes to stop a breach.

By Amy Winter