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Applications and Multi-Platform Support

Blue Mug has helped device manufacturers develop key applications such as email clients, web browsers, image editors, games, PIMs, and system configuration utilities. We can help anyone create custom applications for the large and rapidly growing installed base of wireless mobile devices.

Blue Mug maintains development skills on all major wireless platforms, including:

  • PALM OS: Thanks to Palm's emphasis on both wireless devices and wireless accessories, each of the 25 million PalmOS devices in service world-wide has the capability to be a wireless platform. Blue Mug is a registered PalmSource developer.

  • BREW: Qualcomm's new "Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless" promises to make every phone based on a Qualcomm chip set a wireless application platform. Blue Mug attended the May 2001 launch of BREW at the BREW 2001 Developer and 3G Technical Conference, and we are just now completing our first BREW applications. Look for Blue Mug "True BREW certified" applications from a carrier near you later this year.

  • I-MODE / IAPPLI: Japan's dominant carrier DoCoMo has made i-mode (and its iappli service for downloadable J2ME applets) the de facto wireless platform in Japan. Blue Mug's team, with over six years of continuous project experience in the Japanese wireless market, has worked closely with i-mode and iappli developers to help them bring their applications to market.

  • J2ME: Sun's "Java 2 Micro Edition" provides a consistent development platform for a wide array of phones, PDAs, and air interfaces. Blue Mug developers have been working with Java since its first release, when we integrated the JVM and all the PersonalJava class libraries (including AWT) with GEOS-SC and ported it to the ARM platform. We continue to maintain our Java expertise, and will soon release certified J2ME applications for Nextel iDEN phones.

  • WAP: The WAP Forum's "Wireless Application Protocol" has become a de facto standard for wireless web access from mobile phones in the Americas and Europe, with over 50 certified WAP phone models to choose from. Blue Mug's experience in small-screen user interface design can help you tailor a web solution for phone access.

If you're considering deploying wireless applications, Blue Mug can help you understand your choices and the issues you might face. For example:

  • Capabilities of the underlying technologies, from the basic wireless medium to the application-level protocol.

  • Choice of a platform or set of platforms for your application.

  • Integration of client-side applications with a central server.

  • Data and communication security, on the device and over the network.

  • User interface design, to provide a great user experience with limited screen space and input methods.

  • Working with cellular operators to get your application deployed.

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Board Support

We have done ports to XScale, StrongArm, ARM, x86, MIPS, M32R, and SH-3 processor families and reference boards. We also have experience with microcontroller architectures such as the Atmel AVR and Intel 8051.

We can help:

  • Validate hardware design
  • Set up tools for cross-compilation and debugging
  • Port OS to target CPU
  • Write drivers

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Drivers

We have written device drivers for various peripherals for all classes of device. We are intimately familiar with:

  • Display
  • Flash storage
  • Serial
  • Touchscreen
  • USB
  • Ethernet
  • 802.11
  • IRDA

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Due Diligence

Blue Mug's position of independence and expertise make it an invaluable 3rd party for consulting on strategic decisions. For example, Palm solicited our review of the BeOS acquisition. We researched the technologies, met with the teams, and published our report, maintaining impeccable professional discretion throughout.

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Open Source Software

Given that device complexity is growing so rapidly, maintaining a proprietary code base often becomes too expensive and time-consuming. Many manufacturers are leaning toward a "Mixed Model" of combining stable Open Source software with proprietary modules. They can devote less effort to core maintenance and focus on the technologies that distinguish their product.

This "Mixed Model" raises several key issues, however.

  • IP protection vs. GPL - how to keep modules proprietary?
  • How to integrate with and leverage the open source development community?
  • How to structure the new code base to ensure future upgrades are compatible?
Blue Mug has experience solving these problems.

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Rapid Prototyping

Deciding whether to move forward with a new technology or product design can be tremendously difficult. Blue Mug has helped with such situations in the past by creating demonstration platforms or evaluation units. We can quickly customize the necessary hardware and software that will allow you to collect the data you need to make theright decision:

  • Performance estimates (CPU, RAM, ROM, power/battery life, etc.)
  • Usability (UI mockups, product walkthroughs, focus group testing)
  • Project scoping (total amount of work, staffing structure, necessary skills, suggested milestones)

In a similar vein, Blue Mug can help show off your technology to prospective customers by creating a custom demonstration or evaluation unit. Using our experience with a number of different platforms, we can work with you to design a truly compelling demo experience for your customers.

Check out two of our past prototyping projects, Typesoft's Vera and the Buck Rogers technology demo.

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Selecting or Modifying an Operating System

Engineers at Blue Mug have been developing and modifying graphical consumer operating systems for over 15 years. This long history has taught us about what it takes to create a feature-rich product in a severely resource-limited environment. We've worked with Palm OS, Symbian OS, GEOS-SC, RTOSes, and and in-house systems. We've created OSes that fit in less than 500kB while offering color graphics, sophisticated databases, and removable media. We know how to program for CPU, RAM, and power efficiency. We understand the extreme quality requirements for embedded products, especially those that are shipped on mask ROMs. And we can bring all this knowledge to bear on your project, too.

We're uniquely suited to answer your questions about selecting an operating system because we fully understand the market and technologies yet have no vested interests.

We have direct system software development experience in the following technical areas:

  • CPU Ports

  • Hardware Abstraction. Clean driver interface design for multi-product support, quick ports, and strong peripheral support including definition of a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL).

  • Real Time. Implementation of a Real Time Operating System (RTOS), soft real time enhancements to a general purpose OS as well as operation of a general purpose OS over a Real Time OS which included development of "split-level" drivers operating partially in the general purpose OS layer and partly in the RTOS layer.

  • Low Level Software. Device drivers, boot loaders (e.g. Hermit), and other low level hardware control software, including drivers for LCD displays, UARTs, IR, flash-ROMs, timers, power management and proprietary hardware components, C Library miniaturization

  • Power Management. Central power management system for setting minimal system, CPU, LCD and other peripheral power states based on combined user, application, driver and kernel requirements.

  • XIP. (eXecute in Place) of OS and applications out of ROM.

  • File Systems. RAM, ROM and flash-ROM based file systems.

  • Dynamic Loading. Small kernel plus demand-loaded, dynamically linked and versioned libraries for other system software, applications, and resources. Dynamic linking and loading system for after-market libraries and applications designed for use on multiple processor families

  • Internet Communications. TCP/IP networking with BSD networking stack, including core functionality of networking stack, port of BSD networking to embedded OS, and PPP and PPTP network interface drivers. SSL. HTTP 1.0 and 1.1.

  • Network Management. Access Point multiple network interface management with auto-discovery

  • Messaging. Internet mail protocols such as SMTP and POP3 and parsers for RFC822 and MIME messages, IMAP, SMS, proprietary messaging on NTT DoCoMo cellular network, and interoperability testing, Universal inbox support.

  • Telephony. General-purpose multi-network telephony API for use by 3rd party applications across multiple platforms

  • Window Systems. Advanced window system capabilities (multi-layer, arbitrarily shaped (non-rectangular) windows, software and hardware transparency support, save-under, backing store, redraw optimization)

  • Graphics Systems. Rich graphic capability with scaling, rotation, outline fonts, paste-inside, etc. Bitmap format and depth conversion, scaling and smoothing, software and hardware transparency support. Multiple color depths. GIF, JPEG. Image effects. Background image decoding. Framebuffers.

  • User Interface Technology. Patent development (authoring of Geoworks' "Flexible UI" U.S. Patent #5,327,529), Gtk+, PicoGUI. QT/E, Palm UI.

  • Database Storage Systems. Consistent PIM database with built-in synchronization primitives and guaranteed space support.

  • Component Models. Component application model of highly re-usable rich UI (e.g., entire View menu) and data (e.g., multi-page rich text) objects, with automatic discovery and interconnection of components for "plug & play" application development

  • Java and other Virtual Machine systems. Full Personal Java port with native thread and shared memory, Java extensions for OS-specific components. Optimization of interpreters and virtual machines, both in execution speed and size of interpreted code

Some of the operating systems we've done system-level development work on include:

  • GEOS-SC: a platform-independent, compact OS targeted at smart phones (core OS development, UI and graphics system, database, communications, tools, applications)

  • µITRON compliant RTOS: a hard real-time OS written for phones (implementation of µITRON API, hardware port, GEOS-SC port and interface)

  • Linux: Open Source OS used in both enterprise and embedded environments (hardware port, kernel patches, tools, embedded customizations, custom UI, applications)

  • GEOS: one of the first graphical OSes for the PC market, and the top-selling OS for the Commodore64 (core OS development, UI, tools, applications)

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Staffing

Blue Mug is an excellent resource for outsourcing all or part of your development, whether you need one part-time engineer or a full team. We bring over 15 years of experience in the embedded software field, primarily focused in the wireless handheld space. Our software design, review, and management practices are without peer. We can interface with globally distributed teams or work independently. We find the tools and methodologies that fit with your team and create an overall development model that will revitalize your organization from the ground up.

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User Interface Design

The challenges in creating a truly great user experience are unique to each form factor and application. Blue Mug's designers have created interfaces for a variety of different situations:
  • Cellular handsets with tiny screens and keypad-only input
  • Mobile device applications with pen-only and keyboard-only interfaces
  • Full-size, multi-window PC applications

It requires tremendous foresight and meticulous attention to detail to design and implement an interface that is friendly, appropriate to a particular device, and easy to learn. Blue Mug has experience at every stage of the UI design process:

  • Selecting appropriate device I/O parameters
  • Brainstorming solutions to usability issues
  • User interface mock-ups
    • Static images
    • Walk-through demos
  • Style guide for an entire device
  • Widget toolkit
    • Selecting and modifying existing options
    • Creating a new toolkit

We would be happy to design a UI or toolkit from scratch, or work with you to refine your existing UI for maximum usability.

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Wireless Integration

Wireless communication capabilities can make a portable device incalculably more powerful and useful. 802.11, Bluetooth, IRDA, and cellular communications are each appropriate for a particular set of usage circumstances (connection speed, cost per Kb, n-way vs. peer-to-peer, range). Some devices with multiple wireless interfaces even allow a seamless "hand-off" between two networks, i.e. use 802.11b when near a hot-spot, otherwise use cellular.

It can be tricky to add these technologies to a product in a slick, user-friendly way. There are subtle difficulties with switching networks, discovering access points, conserving power, interacting with the operating system, and shutting down connections.

Blue Mug has extensive experience with each of the aforementioned wireless technologies. We know how to work with cellular operators and hardware manufacturers. We know how to approach the low-level OS and driver tasks as well as how to address the higher-level usability concerns that develop when wireless capabilities are added.

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