IBM, Nokia team to ease business apps onto WLANs

Next-generation Nokia Communicator devices will include Wi-Fi wireless LAN capability and a deal with IBM will provide for smooth handoffs of applications between carrier and enterprise wireless networks.

IBM and Nokia are teaming to make it easier for companies to provide applications to their mobile workers.

Next-generation Nokia Communicator devices will include Wi-Fi wireless LAN (WLAN) capability and a deal with IBM will provide for smooth handoffs of applications between carrier and enterprise wireless networks.

Corporate customers 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, company executives say.

As Wi-Fi networks proliferate in corporations and public places, and mobile operators deploy faster cellular data networks, more capacity has become available for running enterprise applications. However, keeping those applications running while moving among different types of networks is complicated. Nokia and IBM aim to make the experience seamless.

The technology is expected to be available in the fourth quarter when the Nokia Communicator 9500 hits the market. The combination cell phone and handheld computer from Nokia will be joined by more Communicator devices in 2005, according to Nokia.

The tri-band GSM phone will support IEEE 802.11b WLANs, Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution and General Packet Radio Service for data communications. It runs on the Nokia Series 80 software platform, which is based on the Symbian operating system.

Developers will be able to use a desktop Java Development Kit to extend their Java-based applications to the Communicator, which will come with Java 2 Mobile Edition Personal Profile runtime environment that enables integration of middleware, according to the companies.

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.

The network hand-off mechanism could let companies take employees' data sessions off the mobile operator's paid network and move them to the free internal Wi-Fi network without making previous arrangements with the mobile operator, says Eugene Cox, directory of mobile solutions at IBM.

In addition to making applications available on the Communicators, enterprise customers can manage the devices with IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager and Tivoli Configuration Manager, which they also can use to manage desktop and notebook PCs.

Nokia says the Communicator 9500 will sell for about $1,000. The price of IBM's software in the package will depend on which components are used and the size of the deployment, according to IBM. The deal is not exclusive for either partner, officials say.

Lawson is a correspondent with the IDG News Service's San Francisco bureau.

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