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Next of Skin

This entrepreneur knows there is more than one way to skin a phone.

By Heather Clancy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

That's the conviction with which ex-Microsoftgame-technology guru G. Eric Engstrom, 40, founded Wildseed, creator offaceplates called SmartSkins, which contain software thatpersonalizes mobile phones with special ring tones, graphics andunique applications. "When you change the way the userinterface works, it's called skinning," Engstrom says.Think screen savers or computer desktop themes.

Today, SmartSkins, which sell for between $20 and $40, only workwith the 5-year-old Kirkland, Washington, company's ownIdentity handsets, sold by Dobson Cellular Systems for $299 incities nationwide. But Engstrom is negotiating licensing deals withwireless carriers and anticipates revenue between $1 million and $5million this year. His pitch: The handset's software candownload new services to any type of cell phone over theairwaves--offering carriers relief from customer churn, amultibillion-dollar annual expense.

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