Sun sets on SavaJe

So we’ve come to the final chapter of SavaJe, a startup that has been pushing a mobile operating system based on Java for several years with the backing of high profile investors, and not much to show for the effort. Sun announced today that it will purchase the intellectual property assets of the Chelmsford, Massachussets-based company, for an undisclosed sum. The figure is small enough that Sun says the purchase is “immaterial to Sun’s earnings per share.”

SavaJe raised $120 million in total funding since 1999, according to PEHub, and the list of backers includes investment arms of carriers like Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange as well as investors Investcorps Technology Ventures Fund II, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Ridgewood Capital, and RRE Ventures.

The company launched in 2001 with an open Java-based operating system for cell phones, but never really seemed to get much traction in the market. According to PhoneScoop, the platform was only used for two phones, an LG model and the company’s own SavaJe Jasper S20, but not much is known about how well these devices sold.

In the world of mobile operating systems there can only be so many choices, with the handset makers and carriers wanting a few OS’s to choose from. The mobile OS market is narrowing down to Symbian, Linux and Microsoft — Motorola is trying to beef up its Linux phones, while Nokia’s favorite remains Symbian, and Microsoft is intent on gaining more market share, too.

SavaJe has seen its mobile OS as a target at the carrier market. Former CEO Bob Gilkes said back in 2004 that rival mobile OS offerings come from an environment that targets the “equipment manufacturers rather than the operators.” But as carriers create their own branding and segmentation they look for a carrier-targeted, customizable OS, he said then.

While Sun’s Java programming language is used on many mobile phones, Sun, the developer of Java technology, could see a mobile Java OS as a way to keep a strong position in the market. Though, who knows what Sun will do with SavaJe’s IP. Sun says it will explain a bit more at its JavaOne conference in San Francisco in May.