You may not believe it possible, but Picsel Technologies yesterday announced software to allow a full-size browser on your phone's screen.
It promises "full desktop-quality content" on the BREW platform - the smartphone operating system from Qualcomm. Implausible? Perhaps, but it will likely frighten Qualcomm's rivals.
The reason it's being taken seriously? Well, Picsel's GUI has already been demonstrated on the smallest screens.
And now we have Picsel Browser. It runs on BREW V2.1 and beyond, and will allow users to display Flash, video, Microsoft Office, and even Adobe Acrobat files. And Picsel reckons the breakthrough will be for the benefit of network operators.
"It will reduce engineering overheads for them and for OEMs, by ensuring the solution operates across all BREW handsets, said the company today. "Picsel is delivering upon its promise of mobilising the rich content Desktop-style experience for all platforms", said Steve McCallum, head of product management.
The Picsel developer team is derived from a group of old Archimedes developers who worked closely with (or for) Acorn in the early days of the Acorn Risc Machine, which gave rise to the ubiquitous ARM processor. The result is that they are all fluent users of the machine code of the ARM, and seem able to do things on PDAs and phones in tiny amounts of memory, which other platform specialists simply can't conceive.
The key to their technology, however, is a unique user interface, which allows the small screen to show a full PC display.
The normal problem with squeezing high-res screens into a few pixels is that you lose the detail. Picsel solves this by giving the user a "zoom" control system. A simple diagonal stroke with the stylus brings any part of the big picture in close. Pick the spot on the screen you want to see better, focus, and zoom - then zoom out and pick another spot.
The killer is that the application can be anything. I've watched a Picsel equipped iPaq displaying four windows. One had a Word document in it; another had a game of Doom playing in it, another showed live video, and the last had a .PDF Acrobat file in it. And incredibly, it was possible not just to view these files, but to cut and paste one to the other. You could cut the video, and paste it into the Acrobat.
Already available and shipping on Linux, Symbian (UIQ and Series 60), Palm, MicroITRON and the Microsoft platforms - Picsel software will now be available for the BREW platform. Picsel Browser on BREW is in final beta development, and the company says it will be available in Q2 of this year, and will be shipping in the US, China, Japan, Korea and India "by the end of 2004".
Effectively changing the way users interact with their mobile devices, Picsel delivers support for multiple rich content types, all without the need for content re-engineering or source applications residing on the device.
Picsel also claims to be introducing "a variety of 'One Handed' User Interface features", such as the Link Navigator. This enables users to swiftly scan through the content page, using intelligent sequential stepping of hyperlinks "allowing the user to quickly identify key areas of interest, Picsel's Link Navigator is adaptable to multiple device form factors and various content formats".