Nokia, IBM Target Mobile Enterprise

Nokia and IBM are targeting the mobile enterprise by linking mobile communications and IT in a group of products operating on the Symbian Operating System.

February 23, 2004

4 Min Read
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Nokia and IBM are targeting the mobile enterprise by linking mobile communications and IT in a group of products operating on the Symbian Operating System.

Announced Monday at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, the firms said they have already lined up major customers for the effort, which will be based on a combination of Nokia's Communicator platform and IBM's mobile software. In a statement, the firms said they "will jointly deliver mobile solutions that enable greater workforce mobility."

Competitors, however, may be attempting to throw a monkey wrench into their effort, as Reuters reported that Nokia's attempt to take control of Symbian--hitherto considered a foregone conclusion--will be challenged. Two weeks ago, Nokia said it would purchase Psion's share of the operating system, giving it a controlling interest in the OS.

Nokia's 9500 Communicator family is slated for an important role in the effort with IBM. Some models of the 9500 sport "qwerty" keyboards that will make it relatively easy to enter data. There were reports circulating at the conference that at least one 9500 model will feature Wi-Fi capability--an important first for a cell phone. The device will reportedly carry the hefty price tag of more than $1,000, making it unattractive for the consumer market but still valuable for the mobile-sales and field-force automation markets.

In noting that a wide mix of IBM software products will operate on the Symbian OS, the firms said in a statement: "These include WebSphere Everyplace Access Client, WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager Client, WebSphere Micro Environment, IBM Tivoli, and Lotus Sametime Instant Messaging Client for the Nokia Communicator. These provide access to a wide range of enterprise backend systems, enabling users to maintain a seamless connection to critical information, and enable enterprises and service providers to securely extend a new class of high value applications and services to mobile users. IBM Global Services will provide system integration services for these solutions."The firms have already lined up early implementers for their mobility effort: Pfizer, Ricoh, and Daimler Chrysler. The Java environment has also been earmarked for importance in the joint effort. The firms said their enterprise mobility offerings will utilize J2ME MIDP 2.0 and CDC Personal Profile 1.0, as well as several additional Java APIs. A J2ME Personal Profile environment for the 9500 will be provided by IBM's WebSphere Micro Environment for Symbian, enabling the integration of middleware and the extension of enterprise services for mobile users. Java Development kits will enable developers to extend their existing Java-based applications.

In addition to the availability of IBM's WebSphere developer software tools, the computer firm said its Tivoli mobile device solutions will enable enterprise customers to extend to the Nokia communicator the same system-management tools they already use on their desktops, laptops, and servers. "Mobile devices will be able to receive configuration setting and software application downloads on the fly without relying on a hard-wired connection to a server or desktop," Nokia and IBM said.

One user, Pfizer Finland, said it has long used various Nokia and IBM products to automate its sales force and added that it planned to port its existing applications to the Nokia Communicator platform.

The announcement also was a debut of sorts for Mary McDowell, Nokia's new senior vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Solutions Business Group, who joined Nokia late last year after a successful career at Hewlett-Packard. When the Enterprise Solutions unit was formed, McDowell was selected to lead it.

"In any organization, there are different types of users ranging from the high-end power user through the basic user," she said in a statement. "Business mobility solutions to date have really only penetrated the high end-user community, which represents less than five percent of the average workforce."If Nokia's competitors can stop the Finnish firm from taking over Symbian, Nokia may not have complete latitude to use the OS as it pleases. If Nokia is successful in acquiring Psion's one-third ownership of Symbian, it will have a 63 percent ownership of the OS. However, according to Reuters, other cell phone manufacturers, like Ericsson, oppose a Nokia takeover and may use their rights to buy up enough Psion shares to block the Nokia move.

IBM has also played a role the Communicator 9500's Wi-Fi capability, adding security and management features to the device. Motorola and Toshiba have announced that they are working on cell phones with Wi-Fi capability.

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