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  1. Technology
March 27, 1996


By CBR Staff Writer

Without a doubt Finnish telecommunications group Nokia Oy, Europe’s largest cellular telephone maker, has come up with what can only be described as the gadget of the year – if not the decade. It’s a must have piece of kit. The company unveiled the Nokia 9000 Communicator, an organizer and Group Speciale Mobile digital telephone at CeBit recently (CI No 2,873). The idea of merging the cellular phone with a laptop computer or notebook has been toyed with for years. Nokia president and chief executive Jorma Ollila said the first seeds of inspiration were planted about four years ago, when Apple Computer Inc launched its Newton. This month Nokia moved to divest both its cables and its consumer electronics divisions, freeing it to concentrate exclusively on telecommunications.

Cheap and easy

Now the company, who reported year-end profits up 23% to the equivalent of $2,555m, has done the undo-able, with a little help from its friends at Intel Corp and Alameda, California-based Geoworks Inc. The device will use a 24MHz Intel 80386EX embedded processor, designed specifically for the product and will use the Geos operating system from Geoworks. Ollila touted the device as the world’s first Network Computer, but he seems to have missed the point. Unless air-time suppliers come up with an outstanding deal, the Nokia 9000 falls somewhat short of the vital Network Computer characteristics. The whole idea behind the so called Network Computer is that it is a simple device that will provide cheap and easy access to the Internet. Oracle Corp has a box it said will do just that – for under $500. With an in-built World Wide Web browser it’s easy enough to access the Internet, but at just under $1900 Nokia has automatically priced its new toy out of that particular market. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but its a case of horses for courses. Promoting it as a Network Computer could tarnish the 9000’s reputation before it even gets to market. At first glance the Communicator resembles a rather standard looking cellular telephone. It feels like a solid piece of hardware, but its not overly bulky. At 6.8 by 2.5 by 1.5, it’s about the size of an old style flip-top phone, weighing in at just under 14 oz. What is so different about Nokia’s phone is that by flicking a catch and opening it up, it transforms into a pocket organizer. It has everything you would expect in terms of functions, plus just that little bit more. A section to make notes, a diary and alarm clock, facsimile, electronic mail, a Telnet terminal and a World Wide Web browser. You can even compose your own personal telephone ringing anthem – the possibilities of annoying fellow commuters are endless, but on the plus side, at least there would be less confusion as to the owner of a ringing cell-phone.

By Louise Williams

When the organizer is in use, the telephone is on the underside of the device, but can still be used as a hands free via in-built microphone and speaker. It has total memory of 8Mb. The operating system and applications occupies 4Mb and program execution 2Mb, leaving 2Mb for user data storage. With the phone switched on, the battery will last up to 30 hours on standby, when switched off, up-time extends to a week. The battery lasts about two hours when used for facsimile, phone or the Internet. The 9000 has a Qwerty keyboard, but as with all pocket organizers it will probably depend on the size of the user’s fingers how easy it is to use. The screen may be a touch on the small side, but to true techno-gadget lovers, the words compact and bijou will no-doubt spring to mind. So far, no air-time deals have been clinched. Until the service providers decide the type and cost of air time it’s difficult to say how much the Communicator will cost. The recommended retail price could therefore have little bearing on the eventual cost for the consumer. Marketing director Anssi Vanjoki said there would be an aggressive multi-million dollar marketing drive for the product, targeting the high-end professional business sector

. With every new gadget comes a host of new terminology, and the Nokia 9000 is no exception. According to Vanjoki the people clambering to buy the new kit will be those that live and breath an on-line-in-time life. It seems you have to believe in it, and its capabilities, if you are truly to appreciate the technology. And if the necessary faith fails to materialize?

See it to believe it

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Nokia has a little something in reserve for just such an occasion – the Omnigo 700. This Personal Digital Assistant was developed in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard Co, and comes complete with docking station so users can attach their Nokia cellular phones to the device. A data card ensures seamless integration between the two. But the devices are very different. The Omnigo is a computer and the Nokia 9000 a sophisticated filofax, with added capabilities. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of a phone and organizer working together, you can detach one from the other and use both independently, hence solving the on-line-in-time problem. Though if you really have no intention of using the phone and Omnigo together, at $1150 plus tax it could be a wiser investment to opt for stand-alone equipment. Target markets for the 9000 and the Omnigo appear to be remarkably similar. Senior professional business people that spend a large proportion of their time on the move. Both Nokia and Hewlett-Packard deny the devices will be in competition with each other, but no doubt sales figures will make that clearer later in the year. Keep your check books to hand. The Nokia 9000 will be released at 12 o’clock on August 15. You have to see it to believe it.

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