I was trying to help a mobile web developer track down a problem that was keeping his pages from displaying properly on phones with Openwave browsers, which are still widely used on feature phones from U.S. operators. I was going to suggest that he grab the Client SDK, which is really just a browser simulator, off the Openwave developer site. When I went there, I couldn’t find it, just an message that Openwave had sold their browser business to Purple Labs and that the SDKs were no longer supported.
I knew about the sale which closed in June, 2008. Then in Feburary, 2009, Esmertec acquired Purple Labs and changed it’s name to Myriad Group AG. I went to the Myriad Homepage but it was marketing oriented with nary a mention of developers let alone any tools or documentation.
It’s all a bit of a shame. Openwave was a mobile web pioneer and for a long time was the market leader with the best mobile browsers. The company also really supported mobile web development with an excellent developer portal packed with documentation, tools, forums and articles. But Openwave missed the switch to full-web browsers started by Opera and Netfront and then legitimized in the pubic mind by Apple and suddenly the Openwave browser looked very dated. The company was probably wise to sell the browser business while it still had value. As that chapter of Openwave’s history ends it looks like the comapny has pulled everything off the developer site except the formal documentation. The forums and tools are all gone.
Why should developers still care about Openwave? After all, the last Openwave browser, V7 was released in 2004 and the most widely used, 6.2 dates back to 2003. As old as the Openwave browsers are they still drive a lot of mobile web traffic. They still ship in remarkably high numbers, especially in the US. Motorola appears to have given up on their own embedded feature phone browser with recent Motorola phones like the Evolve “Green” phone for T-Mobile USA and the relatively high end, touchscreen Krave ZN4 for Verizon both coming with Openwave 6.2. Verizon also specs 6.2 on the majority of their non-touchscreen phones and every single non-smartphone on Sprint’s iDen network comes with Openwave 7. 20% of traffic on wapreview.mobi comes from devices with Openwave, second only to Nokia branded browsers and well ahead of Mobile Safari, Blackberry, Netfront and Telca.
It’s not particularly easy to ensure that a mobile site works with the Openwave browsers either. They can’t handle pages having much over 30 KB of text and images, botch up background colors and CSS positioning rather badly and seem to have some un-documented limit on the number of of <a> elements on a page. If you want your site to work with all mobile browsers, and you should, you need to test with Openwave. You really should test with real devices but the SDKs are useful to0, particularly when testing iterations to work around a particular issue. In my experience the Openwave SDKs are pretty faithful the actual browsers on handsets. They aren’t perfect, sometimes things that work in the SDK don’t on real devices but I’ve never seen a case where the opposite was true.
I found the install files for the Openwave 7.0 and 6.2.2 SDKs on my hard drive and I’ve uploaded them to wapreview.com for anyone who needs them.
And if your still maintain WML code here’s the wml-only 4.1.1 SDK
Emulator image courtesy Openwave Systems Inc. Openwave and the Openwave logo are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of Openwave Systems Inc. in various jurisdictions. All rights reserved.