Monday, February 12, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Northwest a player in world wireless congress

Seattle Times technology reporter

Kirkland-based Wildseed spent years tinkering with the concept of a kidney-bean-shaped wireless phone that makes sending messages a snap, especially for teens.

Eighteen months ago, Tegic Communications, a Seattle subsidiary of AOL, bought the startup to increase its stake in wireless.

At 3GSM World Congress, a wireless trade show that draws the top wireless players from around the world in Barcelona, Spain, this week, Tegic will be showing off its latest products and technology that further define that stake.

In addition to Tegic, many Puget Sound-area companies will have a presence at the show, which is expecting more than 60,000 attendees. The list includes Microsoft, InfoSpace, SNAPin, SinglePoint, Intrinsyc, RadioFrame Networks, T-Mobile USA, Medio Systems, Action Engine and Volantis.

Here's a roundup of the news that's happening today.

Tegic Communications: Tegic will be demonstrating a new competitor to the iPod and showing off new variations of its well-known T9 product, which allows mobile-phones users to send messages quickly using the typical phone keypad.

AOL, a TimeWarner company, bought Tegic in 1999 for $350 million. The T9 software is available in 63 languages and has been loaded on to more than 2 billion phones worldwide. But in an interview last week Michael Wehrs, vice president of product management, laid out Tegic's mission to do more to make wireless phones and other handheld devices easier to use.

For one thing, Tegic is developing a less restricted music player. Its underlying software, called Smartscreens, is based on the Wildseed technology and allows users to stream or download music or videos to the device over a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. The device can also be connected to a computer by a cable, which is the standard today.

The software runs on the Linux operating system and can also be used on a phone with an open operating system, Wehrs said.

Tegic expects to launch the 30-gigabyte music player with hardware maker Haier by June but has not yet disclosed the name or the price.

In addition to the music player, Tegic is making two T9-related announcements

Wehrs said T9 will be expanded to create a "Discovery Tool" designed to locate content of all types within a few taps — a huge hurdle today on a phone, which can have tons of services and access to virtually unlimited content.

For instance, a user can start typing a name and music by that artist will appear, along with people in a user's contact list who have similar names.

It also helps to easily find functions on the phone, such as Bluetooth or stored photos. The software can make searching through a carrier's storefront, which sells ringtones, graphics and other content, much easier.

Tegic also plans to announce the second version of XT9, which introduces spell check and error correction into its classic text software. With XT9, when words are misspelled or a user hits the wrong key, the software will make a list of word suggestions. XT9 is available on devices with full keyboards and will launch on Toshiba's G500, a slider smart phone, and on Toshiba's G900 full keyboard phone.

InfoSpace: The Bellevue company has been helping carriers sell mobile content including ringtones and games but recently lost one of its major wireless customers, which decided to work directly with the music labels.

Today, it may reveal how it plans to continue competing in wireless business, building on its mobile infrastructure technology.

Microsoft: Microsoft plans to unveil Windows Mobile 6, the latest version of its mobile operating system.

Due to ship in April, it is an upgrade from Windows Mobile 5.0, released almost two years ago. The Windows Mobile operating system has gained a lot of ground in recent years. This version adds features and functionality for business and enterprise users.

The operating system will look and feel more like Windows Vista.

SNAPin: This Bellevue company develops software that helps eliminate calls to a carrier's call center.

It announced late Sunday that Orange, a wireless provider in the U.K., will use SNAPin's self-service software to eliminate a lot of the development time that a new phone entering a market requires.

Typically, carriers spend time loading tailored features onto phones before they are sold to customers.

Using SNAPin's software, it will be able to configure phones in the store.

RadioFrame Networks: It plans to demonstrate new products designed to provide better indoor cellphone coverage.

The Redmond company's product allows consumers to install a mini cellphone tower, the size of a Wi-Fi router, in homes with a broadband connection.

The equipment will allow carriers to offer new services to customers with new billing plans.

For instance, with the device in place, a carrier can provide unlimited calling from the home for a flat rate.

The product, called femtocell, will be available in the second half of the year.

Volantis: Seattle-based Volantis, which helps media companies publish content on the mobile phone, plans to announce multiple partnerships today.

It will pair with Bellevue-based UIEvolution, a subsidiary of Japan-based Square Enix, to deliver content over a wireless standard for applications.

It is also partnering with Vignette, SurfKitchen and CBS.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company


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