Mobile World Congress: Devicescape to unveil update and partnership

A company trying to make it easier for mobile device users to get on Wi-Fi networks now has a powerful friend on its side.

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A company trying to make it easier for mobile device users to get on Wi-Fi networks now has a powerful friend on its side.

Devicescape is set to announce today a partnership with Deutsche Telekom under which the companies will develop new ways to use its Devicescape Connect technology, which debuted about a year ago. Also Tuesday at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, Devicescape will unveil the second major release of the software.

Devicescape is a mobile security company that is branching out to solve a complicated problem: how to take advantage of the many public Wi-Fi networks out in the world without having to enter a user name and password on shrinking Wi-Fi devices. Some of those, such as cameras and game consoles, may not even have a browser. Today, there are Devicescape clients for Microsoft Windows Mobile, Apple Mac OS, Nokia tablets and phones, and the iPhone. More are on the way, Devicescape says.

The free Devicescape Connect software can already be used to set up for use on about 1,000 networks of Wi-Fi hot spots, according to Bill McIntosh, vice president of marketing at Devicescape.

But before they start using it, consumers have to find out about Devicescape and initiate a download. The client is available from Devicescape.com, Download.com and other sites. Thanks to a partnership with Nokia, Devicescape appears on a list of downloads on many devices from that wireless giant. But the software isn't built in to any device yet shipping.

Deutsche Telekom, with divisions around the world and a big emphasis on Wi-Fi hot spots, will help Devicescape work on new technologies for streamlining Wi-Fi use. One of these may be to have a mobile operator send a new subscriber's credentials directly to Devicescape, which would then create an account for the user to access the carrier's Wi-Fi hot spots. All the user would have to do is agree to the terms of Wi-Fi service, and then the device would jump onto each hot spot automatically, McIntosh said.

With Devicescape 2.0 software, debuting in Barcelona, devices will automatically log on to any open Wi-Fi networks that don't require a fee or password, McIntosh said. (There are mechanisms to prevent jumping on to rogue networks, he said.) In addition, it will let users enter and store login information for additional networks on the mobile device if they choose, bypassing the previous need to get to a PC browser. The software is available immediately for Windows PCs and Nokia Series 60 devices, and it will be available shortly for Windows Mobile smart phones.

Meanwhile, the company has lined up at least one deal to have the Devicescape client available in a mobile device out of the box. It will be built into a future version of the Slacker portable music player in the next few months, McIntosh said.

Getting on to Wi-Fi networks with portable devices is a real problem, but Devicescape faces an uphill battle getting the word out about its solution, said In-Stat analyst Daryl Schoolar. The deal with Deutsche Telekom should help to extend Devicescape's reach, he said. As for Deutsche Telekom, getting more people interested in mobile Internet access will probably help to sell Wi-Fi hot spot as well as 3G (third-generation) cellular services.

"Anything to get people to use Wi-Fi more in public increases the likelihood of them going to (Deutsche Telekom's) network," Schoolar said.

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