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Originally published October 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 22, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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"Dashboard" for cellphone

Ford Davidson left Microsoft about a year ago to tackle a huge problem that's also very tiny — making small mobile-phone screens more...

Seattle Times technology reporter

Ford Davidson left Microsoft about a year ago to tackle a huge problem that's also very tiny — making small mobile-phone screens more useful to consumers.

Davidson, 28, had worked in Microsoft's Windows Mobile division, but in July 2006 he started Dashwire, a Seattle company working out of a small office in Fremont.

Dashwire's technology allows people to set up, organize and manage their cellphones over the Internet, a situation in which a person typically has access to a full screen, keyboard and mouse.

In doing so, a user can sidestep the mobile phone's limitations of small keypad and screen to easily add contacts, designate people for speed dialing and back up pictures and videos.

"It's a dashboard for a wireless phone," he said. "We are taking the phone and mirroring it out to the Web."

A public beta of the Dashwire service goes live today at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment convention in San Francisco. People visiting the site will be able to register to use the service.

Over the past year, Davidson and a staff of five (plus four contractors) have been quietly building the product, fueled by less than $1 million in angel financing.

"I'm excited — this is so awesome," Davidson said. "I'm having so much fun building something that is so sweet."

The application is initially available for phones with the Windows Mobile operating system. It requires downloading an application to the phone, which gathers data from the device and sends it to the Web.

The site syncs with the person's contacts, and users can also send text and picture messages from the computer. For now, it does not back up calendar appointments or e-mail.

Because the phone is sending so much data to the Web, Dashwire recommends that users sign up for unlimited data plans with their carrier.

Eventually, the service could replicate what enterprise users take for granted — an automatic backup system for their mobile phone that they currently get through Microsoft Outlook or other services targeted to corporations.

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Increasingly, however, as consumers want higher-end phones, they won't want the inconvenience of having to re-enter contacts each time they get a new device, which is why Davidson thinks Dashwire plays such a critical role.

The service is free, and Davidson expects to launch a store selling applications for phones on the Web site. He said it will also sell advertising on the site.

"We have a lot to do to make it cooler," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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