SA firm bridges smartphone divide

30 August 2006

South African start-up company Red Five Labs has developed pioneering technology that will allow Symbian and Windows Mobile smartphones to “speak the same language,” Dataweek reported last week.

Julia Long, CEO of HBD Venture Capital – one of Red Five Labs’ backers – told Dataweek that the incompatibility of smartphone programming languages had long been a headache for software developers worldwide.

While the majority of smartphone software developers use Microsoft’s .NET programming languages, “the vast majority of smartphones are based on Symbian and do not support .NET – in the same way that applications written for the Apple Mac generally do not work on the PC,” Long told Dataweek.

“Red Five Labs’ technology changes all of this, removing the need for applications – whether these are games, screensavers or calculators – to be rewritten for each type of smartphone.”

For device manufacturers, Red Five Labs’ solution means that manufacturers choosing Symbian OS will be able to tap the vast .NET developer pool for software applications for their mobile phones.

HBD, founded by internet billionaire Mark Shuttleworth and one of South Africa’s premier venture capital organisations, invested in Red Five Labs in 2005, followed by the Innovation Fund – the business unit of the Department of Science and Technology – in March 2006.

Red Five Labs says it is about to launch the first public beta of its .NET Compact Framework runtime with class libraries for Symbian OS powered mobile devices.

Red Five Labs co-founder Dusan Babich told Dataweek that South Africa provided the company with “excellent technical people to develop our product, and the advanced nature of SA’s mobile industry assisted in highlighting the market gap which our product addresses.” reporter

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