Have You Heard of WIPI?

In a report I read today I learnt that WIPI (Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability), a mobile device runtime environment for applications similar to BREW and JAVA, is mandated by the Korean government to be included on any mobile phone sold in Korea that allows Internet access.

An interesting way to prevent companies such as Nokia, SE, Apple and others to sell their devices in Korea. In the past there were only CDMA based 3G networks available in Korea so this technology dispute was mainly between Korea and the US (hello Qualcomm…). As some Korean operators have now transitioned from CDMA to UMTS the issue now gains a more global dimension.

While these UMTS networks now theoretically enable Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Apple and others to sell their devices in Korea, the WIPI ruling prevents that from happening. But it looks like some operators have become rather unhappy and are asking for lifting the WIPI ruling. Lots of questions poping up here:

  • I wonder if there is a black market in Korea for such phones today?
  • Not sure if such phones would even be desired at the moment due to the probably missing Korean language integration and also due to the sophistication of LG/Samsung phones.
  • Also, I wonder how widely WIPI is used at the moment, is it seen as an integral part by a large user base?
  • In case the application environment is very popular I wonder if lifting the WIPI ruling would have an immediate effect if people would not buy devices without it.

Fellow readers in Korea, what do you think?

2 thoughts on “Have You Heard of WIPI?”

  1. Hi Martin,

    I check with our Korea country manager, and this is the information I can provide:
    “WIPI was introduced so that terminal application developed for one operator can also run on other networks.
    By having WIPI, a virtual machine environment, it eliminated contents and applications to run on different OS’s supported by different handsets – at least this is how it was marketed by the government.
    In a way, this made it difficult for vendors with less enthusiasm to enter Korean market.
    Another point of view is that those vendors didn’t bother to provide WIPI. No other place, only in Korea (BTW – Motorola supports it).
    WIPI’s intentions were to make life easier for terminal application developers, such as game providers.
    WIPI has become an issue lately. It was said to be one (of many reasons) the delay of introduction of iPhone.
    Not having WIPI, might not happen in over night.
    But recently, RIM’s Blackberry terminals were allowed into the market, with claims that it is only meant for business customers.
    And as smartphones start to become more popular (thanks to iPhone and BlackJack), WIPI might not be necessary.”

    While I agree with these statements, my own view here, is that Korea, being a “Qualcomm-controlled-country” in terms of baseband didn’t want to become dependent on their BREW platform, and at the same time wanted their own internal development (Samsung, LG and other smaller companies) to become market leaders in mobile handsets. WIPI was a way for them to lock the market and drive innovations by internal development at the same time.

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