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What's New in BREW Version 2.0

Highlights of new and enhanced features in the latest version of the BREW application execution environment, plus a handy introduction to BREW and how it works.


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kay, maybe you aren't up to speed on the features of BREW version 1.x, or perhaps you've not yet even investigated this technology. So, before we jump into the improvements and updates provided by the most recent version, let's take a look at some BREW basics—who the technology is for and how it functions. (If you are already familiar with BREW, and you just want to see the nifty stuff they've added to version 2, skip down a couple of sections.)

Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless, or BREW, as it's commonly known, is an application execution environment created by QUALCOMM, for wirelessly downloading and running software applications on mobile handsets. The platform is "air-interface" independent—that means it works equally well on CDMA or GSM phones and networks, and can be ported to any handset, regardless of the air-interface technology.

Developers wanted
There are two primary components to the client-side of the BREW platform. First—the BREW SDK. Unsurprisingly, this is the component of the platform that provides developers with the APIs and execution environment they need to create applications. The creators of the technology realized that in order for BREW to be practical and effective, they would need to build a tool that would minimize the learning curve for developers. Hence, they based BREW on the popular and powerful C and C++ programming languages. The BREW SDK is designed to give developers access to low-level functions within the mobile handset's runtime environment, thereby empowering them to build fast and efficient applications that exploit a full-range of the device's resources and capabilities. This concept goes beyond simply providing a more direct line to the handset's memory and processing capacity. BREW allows developers to create applications that make the user more productive by facilitating access to the device's personal information management tools and telephony functions. And if that's not something you're interested in, you can always write gaming apps.



Please pass the chips
The other half of the client-side component in the BREW architecture involves the device manufacturers. In order for BREW apps to work, the handset needs to be equipped with BREW client software, which is available at no cost to manufacturers delivering handsets to operators of BREW-enabled cellphone networks. Integrated with the device's RAM and Flash memory, the client software functions as the device's low-level set of APIs that complements the BREW SDK.

QUALCOMM is also quick to emphasize the ease with which BREW applications can be ported between devices. The client software requires a minimum 150K of the device's memory, and applications can be as small as 10K. This economy of resources allows manufacturers to include BREW on both high-end and low-end devices, therefore making the service provider's investment in BREW-enhanced handsets and BREW server-side component more cost effective.

For every client, there's a server
The second major component of the BREW platform is the "provisioning" piece of the puzzle. The BREW Distribution System, or BDS, allows carriers (phone companies, for example) to exercise complete control over BREW application management. Specifically, the BDS manages the end-to-end process of distributing applications in the following ways:

  • Application submission
  • Application testing (premium service)
  • Consumer catalog creation
  • Verification of handset compatibility
  • Application purchasing, including integrated billing operator's current OSS
  • Over-the-air application installation, recalling, and updating

Ultimately, the entire architecture was created with the entire value chain in mind, beginning with developers and device manufacturers, on through carriers to their subscribers. Certainly developers are important to the platform's success, but QUALCOMM has a deeply vested interest in the continued proliferation of CDMA networks and handsets. And although CDMA is currently enjoying high rates of adoption in markets around the world, GSM continues to be the protocol of choice for many operators and manufacturers. As a result, with BREW, QUALCOMM offers their core customers a reason to continue their existing support and expansion of their CDMA infrastructure.

The good stuff
Since BREW is a client-side environment, the enhancements offered in BREW 2.0 pertain to the client side of the platform—meaning the phone. Devices supporting BREW 2.0, the next version of the BREW platform, are expected to be available in the first half of 2003, although an BREW 2.0 porting kit has already been made available to manufacturers. To keep up with the evolution of next-generation mobile services, QUALCOMM has expanded the capabilities of BREW, adding and improving support for security, browsing, messaging, graphics, multimedia, and even GPS. Significant improvements to the SDK have likewise been made both to support these new features and to improve the usability of toolkit for developers.

In an effort to support the deployment of next-generation mobile services, QUALCOMM has added and updated a number of interfaces, data types, structures and helper functions. The tables below highlight some of the more important updates available in the latest version of the BREW platform. Table 1 summarizes some of the more significant interface enhancements that have been made, while Table 2 highlights new data types and structures that have been added and are supported in BREW 2.0.

Many more updates have been made, and these tables do not mention any of the helper functions that are new in BREW 2.0. However, it is apparent that QUALCOMM has placed special emphasis on evolving its technology along with the consumer demand for more sophisticated services.

QUALCOMM has also made several improvements to the SDK's user interface and functionality. These include enhancements to the BREW Emulator, the Resource and MIF Editors, and the Device Configurator. Table 3 lists the latest updates in functionality to the BREW SDK.

Resources
View the complete listing of SDK updates in the company's document, "What's New in the 2.0.0 BREW SDK."

Download the BREW 2.0 SDK

See a listing of BREW Global Publishers, who can help get applications into distribution

See a listing of devices supporting BREW

Originally published in the BREW Wireless Resource Center



   
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