IBM, Symbian target road warriors

Hoping to become the OS of choice for cell phones, Symbian cuts a deal with Big Blue on a technology to let workers access e-mail, calendar and office info while on the move.

IBM and Symbian announced a partnership Thursday to work on technology that will allow people to access their work e-mail, calendar and corporate information via their cell phones

HANNOVER, Germany - Under the agreement, IBM is making available its DB2 Everyplace database software and Lotus' Mobile Notes to Symbian "smart phones" such as Nokia's new Communicator 9210. DB2 software stores and collects Web and corporate information, and Lotus Notes lets employees complete forms, participate in work collaboration and access sales force automation tools using a mobile version of the PC browser.

The IBM-Symbian technology will also include mobile device management software from IBM's Tivoli Systems, which lets wireless devices access corporate intranets and Internet applications.

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The alliance marks IBM's latest push into the wireless market aimed at employees, and will enable workers to access their personal office records and database information from their Symbian smart phones, the companies said.

"Those things they can do in the office, we want to make available when they're on the road," said IBM's Val Rahmani at a news conference Thursday at the CeBit trade show.

The move also furthers Symbian's efforts to gain market share against Microsoft and others in the cell phone operating system market.

Mark Edwards, senior vice president of Symbian's global marketing and sales effort, said he hopes the deal will help to make sure Symbian is the "de facto standard...operating system" for cell phones. Twenty Symbian handsets are in development, he said, mentioning Nokia's new 9210 announced Wednesday.

The cellular phone market is growing at a record pace, with increasing interest from large companies to connect their employees to corporate databases. According to market research firm The Yankee Group, there will be more than 1 billion mobile phone owners by 2003, and about 60 percent of those phones will have Net access.

Over the last several years, IBM has poured significant resources into developing products aimed at the enterprise wireless market. Last March, the company unveiled its WebSphere Everyplace Suite, a set of tools for developing and managing content for wireless devices such as cell phones and Palm handhelds. IBM also provides wireless data access to its DB2 database, Lotus Domino software, Microsoft Exchange and Oracle databases.

Thursday's announcement with Symbian only furthers the company's efforts at reaching the growing market of businesses seeking to wirelessly connect their employees to corporate databases.

"IBM and Lotus have about half of the market for messaging and collaborating," said Dave Nelson, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "There's a large install base of about 70 million players worldwide that they could impact."