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October 11, 1999

Siemens Takes Separate Communicator Path with Unifier

By CBR Staff Writer

Nokia Oyj won’t say how many of its 9110 Communicators it has sold since bringing the office-in-a-mobile handset two years, but it’s enough for Finnish company to claim it has created a new market niche. And now its competitors are going after it in earnest.

Since LB Ericsson AB gave James Bond 007 a GSM phone that doubled as remote control for a BMW, handset manufacturers have been chasing Nokia’s lead with handheld computers that are also mobile phones. And the latest to show its hand is Siemens AG, the German company which wants to triple its handset sales in 2001, and ship some 35 million units.

A small proportion of these units will probably be Siemens’ new IC35 Unifier, which debuted at Telecom 99 in Geneva yesterday, and which Siemens says will be ready for sale to the public in time for the Cebit trade fair in Hanover, Germany next spring.

So what’s new about the Unifier? Well, it is the first communicator product which isn’t actually a phone as well. Siemens has decided that personal digital assistant (PDA) are two fat and clumsy, so the Unifier is designed to connect to a standard GSM handset only as required, in the manner of a Psion 5 or a PalmPilot.

For a phone company this is quite a smart idea, and one which Philips NV had a year ago with a Palm-like device that clipped onto a Philips GSM handset. That was such a good idea that Philips recently discontinued it.

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