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Software // Enterprise Applications

Handhelds Get New Option

Startup Radixs' MXI operating system will let users run full desktop applications on cell phones, PDAs, and other small devices.

The battle for leadership in providing operating-system software for handheld devices such as PDAs, cell phones, and tablet computers gains a new entrant this week. Singapore startup Radixs Private Ltd. plans to introduce an operating system that it says will let full-fledged Windows, Linux, and Java-based desktop software run on mobile equipment.

Radixs calls its software Motion eXperience Interface, or MXI. "Instead of having to live with stripped-down applications," CEO Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan says, "you can have your full desktop experience, with the applications deployed without any form of code rewrite."

There's a market for enhanced handheld devices that could replace notebook computers, says Will Strauss, an analyst at research firm Forward Concepts. But it's too early to say whether Radixs can deliver on its promises. "One wonders about the limitations of display and keyboard size for what the experience is really going to be like," he says. "But I can see this working well in certain business environments. A laptop can be pretty darn cumbersome."

MXI will let hardware manufacturers offer inexpensive smart phones, extended PDAs, and computing tablets that will provide a richer application experience for mobile workers and offer improved video, audio, and gaming capabilities, Rathakrishnan says.

MXI is split into two elements. The Radixs MXI operating system is embedded within a handheld device. A Radixs MXI server is placed within the network operator's back-end infrastructure. Applications are deployed from the server using existing wireless data networks.

Commercial rollout is expected in the second quarter, beginning in Singapore and Australia. The company is in discussions with two major U.S. cellular operators and expects a rollout of services by June. In addition, Radixs is in talks with manufacturers of cellular-phone chipsets and expects to disclose some deals in the next month.

The company is looking at the OMAP platform by Texas Instruments Inc. and the XScale platform from Intel, the leading processors used in cellular phones and PDAs. Both OMAP and XScale have application processors based on an ARM processor architecture, making it relatively easy to port the Radixs operating system to both platforms.

Radixs also says it has teamed with Sun Microsystems to develop a mobile version of Sun's StarOffice 7 Office Suite, making it the first desktop application suite to be run in its entirety on a mobile device, Rathakrishnan says. StarOffice 7 is a leading office-productivity suite for Linux and the Solaris operating system and an alternative to Microsoft Office.

MXI is compatible with Java and capable of running apps built with Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Java 2 Standard Edition. Radixs also will support Sun's Solaris x86 and will integrate the MXI server platform with the Sun Java System Messaging Server, Web Server, and Application Server.

Radixs plans to charge a per-user fixed subscription fee, a per-operator charge for implementation of the MXI platform, and a per-device royalty to handset manufacturers.

Radixs is also in discussions with several game, music, and application vendors, with additional announcements expected in the second quarter. The company plans to open regional headquarters in the United States and Europe in the next few months.

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