Imagine using a cell phone to create your own personal area network that connects not only your laptop and PDA (personal digital assistant) but also an array of other devices like a wristwatch with caller ID, digital camera and gaming console, all at once and with a bunch of applications. That and more is what the PMG (Personal Mobile Gateway) software developed by IXI Mobile Inc. intends to offer mobile enthusiasts later this year.
PMG adds two main functions to Bluetooth-enabled phones, according to Edgar Auslander, senior vice president of marketing and strategy at IXI Mobile in Redwood City, California. First, the software has a router capability, allowing users to connect multiple wireless devices to their cell phone and share the same Internet connection. Second, it has a server capability, enabling other devices to operate as thin clients without the need for additional operating system software, power devices and more.
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. of South Korea is the first cell phone manufacturer to agree to make handsets incorporating PMG software, having displayed a prototype at the CeBIT trade show earlier this month in Hanover, Germany. Several vendors have also agreed to supply products designed for PMG. They include Japan's Seiko Instruments Inc. with a wristwatch, South Korea's InfoHand Co. Ltd. with a digital camera, and Game Park Inc., also of South Korea, with a gaming console.
"We're in discussions with plenty of handset manufacturers and makers of other portable devices and plan to make some announcement soon," said Auslander. "We hope to have PMG-enabled products available in Europe and Asia within the next few months and later in the U.S."
The extra cost of adding IXI's software to handsets and other gadgets "should be hardly noticeable to users," Auslander said. The technology, he said, will be available mostly in high-end devices, such as Samsung's tri-band SGH-X410 cell phone, a prototype that uses the PMG software.
While Bluetooth technology is designed to connect devices, PMG software provides applications to run over these connections, according to Auslander. "PMG has all the drivers and software components you need to have, say, a cell phone connect to your wristwatch, show the number of an incoming call and let you accept or reject that call," he said.
Customers can download new applications and install them on their phones, much as they do today with drivers and other add-ons supplied by Microsoft Corp. for its Windows operating system, Auslander said.
IXI Mobile, which operates a research and development center in Tel Aviv, Israel, is privately held and funded by several groups, including the China Development Industrial Bank, Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc.