Nokia targets enterprise with new Communicator

Nokia Corp. says its upcoming mobile communication device helps the enterprise ease wireless into the IT infrastructure. But one industry observer says the vendor faces a challenge, an ingrained mentality among corporations that cell phone management is the end user’s responsibility, not IT’s.

Nokia is talking up its 9500 Communicator, a mobile handset with a wide screen and enough computing power for spreadsheet creation and presentation viewing.

“It’s really the ideal choice for business users and IT professionals to enable their business processes,” said Yuri Rebello, director of engineering at Nokia Canada in Ajax, Ont.

The new Communicator offers wireless LAN connectivity, camera functions, Bluetooth connectivity, POP3 and IMAP e-mail support, as well as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and IPSec for secure links to the enterprise network.

It runs on Symbian Ltd.’s mobile-minded operating system and supports Java applications. It comes with a USB connector and offers a choice of two, 64,000-colour screens: a 640 x 200-pixel display, or a 128 x 128-pixel display.

It aims to make device management easy. The Communicator comes with configuration tools that allow IT staffers to add applications and adjust settings on individual handsets even when the devices are out of the office.

It works with a number of third-party systems, including Cap Gemini Ernst & Young’s @Anyplace mobility suite, Cisco Systems Inc.’s wireless LAN infrastructure and Oracle Corp.’s collaboration suite.

“The 9500 Communicator is flexible, it has the fast connections with the integrated wireless LAN, which is one of the key things in this product, as well as the GSM/GPRS/EDGE technology,” Rebello said. He also said Nokia does not plan to offer a CDMA version.

Roberta Fox, an industry analyst with Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont., said the Communicator might speak to companies with many road warriors on staff, but for the most part enterprises are wary of wireless devices.

Cell phones and PDAs spell calls to IT from end users who can’t figure out how to synchronize their devices with their desktop PCs. And business leaders are still nervous about “putting so much corporate information on something so small, mobile and stealable.”

“A lot of corporations still consider wireless a personal investment,” something for end users to manage, and not an IT responsibility, Fox said.

Rebello said Nokia recognizes this challenge.

“Certainly a device like this could be used standalone, but that isn’t the aim. This is the device you want to use to get to secure information. In order to do that, you need the support of the IT group.”

That’s why Nokia created its own Enterprise Solutions group, whose portfolio includes the Communicator. The group is meant to support IT departments that are struggling with wireless integration.

“Enterprise Solutions will be offering enterprises end-to-end mobility solutions that will include business-optimized mobile devices on the front end, and a robust portfolio of optimized gateways on the back end,” Rebello said.

The 9500 Communicator will be available in Q4, Rebello said. Nokia has not set the price yet, but he figures it will ring in at less than $1,000.

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