IBM eases business apps onto Nokia handheld

Next-generation Nokia Communicator devices will include Wi-Fi wireless Lan capability, and a deal with IBM will provide smooth...

Next-generation Nokia Communicator devices will include Wi-Fi wireless Lan capability, and a deal with IBM will provide smooth handoffs of applications between carrier and enterprise wireless networks, the companies will announce at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes today.

Developers in enterprises will be able to write applications using Java tools and have them run on different kinds of networks and even on successive generations of client devices.

The technology will become available in the fourth quarter of this year when the Nokia Communicator 9500 hits the market. The combination mobile phone and handheld computer, the next generation of a long line of devices from Nokia, will be joined by more Communicator devices in 2005.

The existing Communicator 9210, like earlier models, is a phone that flips open to reveal a wide keyboard and LCD screen. The 9500 will be sleeker, said Scott Lindgren, director of product marketing at Nokia.

The triband GSM phone will support IEEE 802.11b wireless Lans as well as Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution(Edge), and GPRS for data communications. It runs on the Nokia Series 80 software platform, which is based on the Symbian operating system.

IBM and Nokia said developers at software suppliers and in enterprises will be able to use a desktop Java Development Kit to extend their existing Java-based applications to the Communicator, which will come with Java 2 Mobile Edition Personal Profile runtime environment that enables integration of middleware.

On the device, WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager Client will direct the application to the fastest available network. IBM's Lotus Sametime Instant Messaging Client software will run on the Communicator, so users can keep in touch with their colleagues wherever they are.

Eugene Cox, director of mobile solutions at IBM, said the network hand-off mechanism could allow enterprises to take their employees' data sessions off the mobile operator's paid network and on to the free internal Wi-Fi network without making arrangements with the mobile operator.

IBM and Nokia have zeroed in on sales people and field workers in the pharmaceutical, insurance and government sectors as initial users of the technology.

Enterprise IT managers will also be able to manage the devices with IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager and Tivoli Configuration Manager, which they also can use to manage desktop and notebook PCs. They will be able to send configuration settings and software downloads to the Communicators over the wireless network.

Nokia estimated the 9500 Communicator will sell at retail in Europe for about €800. The pricing of IBM's software in the package will depend on which components are used and the size of the engagement.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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