Exego brings PC files to your cell phone

Verizon Wireless Inc. has launched Exego, a service that lets customers access and transfer PC files via select mobile phones.

The service, previewed in San Diego in mid-March, requires application software from Summus Inc. called Exego, and runs on only two mobile phone models, available from Verizon, that support the binary runtime environment for wireless (BREW). The Exego service costs US$6 a month, plus airtime charges.

Exego’s initial application is a module that lets you view image files. The company plans to introduce additional modules – a mapping application is due for release later this year, and a video player is due in early 2003. You can also browse a list of other file types; and while you can’t currently view the files on your phone, you can forward them to a PC via regular Internet e-mail or Exego’s instant messaging application.

Exego currently provides access only to files uploaded from a PC to the Summus server. Customers receive 5MB of storage space as part of their monthly fee. Verizon and Summus may offer greater amounts of storage, for higher fees, in the future.

But Summus is developing an application that permits direct access to your PC through a cell phone. The BlueFuel Personal Server, scheduled for release by the end of the year, is an application that makes an Internet-connected PC accessible via the wireless network. Access to your PC will be protected via a password (as with the server-based account), and Summus representatives say they are contracting with other companies to provide additional security measures.

By storing data on a server, the Exego service will enable users to carry as little as possible while having wireless access to their files. In addition, by using compression technology, Exego can run on 2G networks still widely in use, providing some of the functions promised for 3G nets.

The two supported phones, available from Verizon, are the Z-800 from Sharp Corp., a US$400 model with a two-inch colour display; and Kyocera Wireless Corp.’s US$50, black-and-white 3035e model. Verizon expects to offer other BREW-capable phones later this year, and Summus plans to work with other wireless carriers and to support other platforms, including Java and the Pocket PC and Symbian operating systems. Company representatives say they have not yet decided whether they will support devices running the Palm OS, although they say there are no technical barriers to doing so.

Summus says Exego’s software engine, called BlueFuel, is efficient enough to run on mobile phones with low-power processors and limited bandwidth. In PC World’s informal tests, Exego retrieved images to a BREW-enabled phone in about 10 seconds.

Summus is also lining up deals with partners to provide additional third-party content and services via Exego. The company has already inked a deal with Zio, which will make its handheld games available over Exego. Other offerings in the works include real-time traffic information from provider Iteris, electronic greeting cards from Funcaster, and an ATM locator from ServiceObjects.