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infoginCellphone and Internet engineers have been facing a major dilemma in recent years – reminiscent of another dilemma faced in an earlier era by peanut butter and chocolate engineers: How can two totally different user experiences be integrated successfully, enabling both to perform at the best of their ability?

Peanut butter cups – that delicious melding of two completely different but oh-so-satisfying tastes – merged together to make a luscious new creation greater than the sum of its parts. They are an apt metaphor for the challenges faced by cellphone and Internet engineers when it comes to displaying “real” Web pages on cellphone browsers.

Just as the brash taste of peanut butter can overwhelm the delicate taste of chocolate if not done right, the advanced capabilities of today’s Web 2.0 services are just too far ahead of the curve for most cell devices – even advanced ones, such as the iPhone. To solve the dilemma, it will take the genius of a Milton Hershey, who developed, after much effort, just the right combination, allowing both tastes to shine.

Genius such as that can be found among the research and development engineers of Kfar Sava-based InfoGin Ltd., founded by Eran Wyler in April 2000. InfoGin has developed a Web to mobile content adaptation solution that allows virtually any Web page to display properly and completely on virtually any cell device that has WAP, GPRS or any other connection capability.

Which is really an amazing concept, when you think about it.

Consider your cellphone on the Internet – how it displays pages and links, and how it downloads graphics. Could you imagine your cellphone’s browser displaying a flash-heavy site like http:// www.nokia.com/nonstopliving (ironically a site hawking bluetooth headsets for cellphones)? Ditto for sites heavy on Ajax or other rich and advanced Web technologies – or even many plain old HTML sites. Even if they load in a reasonable amount of time (or at all), they still don’t look right – even if you have something like Flash Lite, even if you’re using a browser designed for cellphones like the Opera mobile version, or even if you have an advanced device like an iPhone or a Nokia smartphone.

That Web sites designed for advanced duo-core Intel processors with 17-inch flat screens attached would render less successfully on cellphones makes sense: Thus, the development by many major Web sites of a secondary mobile Web site especially for cellphones; thus, cellphone users who want to surf the Net find themselves restricted to sites like the ones listed here – simple, low-overhead, basic-information sites, with the site reformatted for the lower-end and poorer-display cellphones.
It’s bad for users, says Wyler, who want out of the “walled garden” of the limited-use cellphone Internet available to them today (as good a metaphor as peanut butter cups, I suppose), and bad for content providers, who have to redevelop their sites to enable cellphone users to access their content, creating extra operational expenses for them, as well as prohibiting them from presenting themselves as they really want to.

InfoGin’s solution addresses both problems, Wyler says. “InfoGin’s platform is installed on a server that sits between the mobile devices and the Internet, reformatting the content in order to enable it – all of it – on all cellphones. It’s perfect, because the provider doesn’t have to do anything different, and neither does the user,” he says, adding, “They can use any browser on any connection, in order to use and display just about any Web page out there.”

It’s a tall order, and to frustrated cellphone Web users, it sounds like a tall tale. Happily, however, this isn’t some theoretical yarn; InfoGin’s solution is already in use by some major mobile operators and industry players across the globe – both service providers and content providers, including AOL‘s mobile portal (wap.aol.com), which is on the aforementioned list of top mobile Web sites. But the difference between the AOL site and others is that the mobile version of the portal is the same as the Web version (I compared http://www.aol.com and wap.aol.com, and could see almost no differences in terms of content).

InfoGin’s magic can’t turn a minuscule cellphone screen into something that would render a Web page that is usually viewed on a large desktop screen. The trick is in the InfoGin software, which intelligently reinterprets the page and displays it in several segments, changing the format – again, automatically – while preserving the content. Thus, the AOL mobile portal page has the top stories, a search box, links like AOL Mail, Moviefone and Mapquest, and weather and horoscope information (the news people really care about) on its main page, a tab for pages like photos and AIM user sites, and a channels tab that lists all the links – music, television, sports, etc. – that are on the AOL portal page but not on the main tab.

“With InfoGin, mobile operators and users are no longer limited in the type of content they can send or display for cellphones,” Wyler says. “We can display any item on a Web page, intelligently adapting it to display it in the proper perspective, such as size, importance of the item on the page, or other criteria provided by customers.”

It’s clearly a revolutionary technology, he says, so revolutionary, that last year the company received a US patent for its rendering method. Wyler and InfoGin, which now has about 75 employees, have been working on this since 2000, and with the patent and several dozen deals, including the AOL one. Meanwhile, InfoGin has been garnering kudos from folks in the cellphone industry, named one of Red Herring’s top 100 companies in Europe this year.

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Category: telephony

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