The myriad of networking technologies, protocols and devices that currently make up the wireless industry creates a huge headache for software programmers. But it is one that Ariel Gorfung, CEO of Intuwave, claims his company's middleware can ease.
Gorfung describes Intuwave's middleware, called m-Network, as a 'services framework'. This distributed development and operating framework, he says, allows programmers to focus on building applications, without having to worry about modifying them to run on different devices and operating systems. It also provides programmers with a set of tools to add security features; allow roaming between different types of networks, such as GPRS and wireless local area networks; and create peer-to-peer applications. In short, says Gorfung, it helps developers create wireless applications that are practical.
m-Network has been in development since the company was founded in 1999 by former Symbian and Psion employees Mark Melling and Jeremy Burton. To supplement seed financing during the company's early years, Melling and Burton offered out their services as consultants and developers. Thanks to the strength of their technical skills, they won a series of prestigious one-off wireless development projects from the likes of IBM and Macromedia. Securing £7.7 million (€12.4m) in financing from investors 3i, GIMV and Sum International in January 2002, has since allowed executives to focus on readying its middleware for a full commercial launch this year.
Intuwave has so far licensed its technology to its handset manufacturer partners – Gorfung won't name them – and is working closely with independent software vendors to fine-tune its platform. This has encouraged the company to begin approaching wireless carriers with its technology and applications ideas, some of which, says Gorfung, operators have agreed to trial in the third quarter of 2002. To the sceptic, this may all sound a bit vague. Gorfung insists that "it's all a bit hush-hush" as rival operators and software developers strive to keep their ideas under wraps.
If m-Network allows developers to side-step the problems caused by diverse technologies within the wireless industry, then Intuwave has an attractive proposition for operators and handset makers – both of whom are desperate to build revenue-generating applications. However, the current malaise engulfing the sector and the fierce competition from the many wireless start-ups means that Intuwave must continue to innovate, particularly in terms of identifying new revenue streams.