Nokia pitches Blackberry-esque business smart phone trio

Mighty Finn hopes to tempt CIOs with Es

Mighty Finn hopes to tempt CIOs with Es

Nokia has released the first of three phones aimed at the business segment.

The trio of smart phones - E60, E61 and E70 - are the first handsets to debut as part of the business-centric Eseries device range. All three will be based on the latest version of Symbian OS, have push-to-talk and 3G connectivity as well as having varying levels of email functionality.

Among the mobile email companies that are offering support for the device are Good Technology, Seven and Visto.

Of the three devices, only one will feature a camera phone, because, according to execs, although most mobile workers don't need camera functionality, there is the odd assignment that requires it.

The E61 marks a departure in form factor. The similarity of the phone to RIM's iconic BlackBerry is no coincidence, according to Niklas Savander, senior VP of Nokia's business device unit.

He said: "We are taking here a popular form factor that companies like Research in Motion have popularised and added a smart phone", adding that the design was created in response to customer feedback. "If it's a business tool, it needs to look like a business tool."

The phones also feature voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN) capabilities, although IT managers will need to authorise and install a VoWLAN client on the handset. The issue of handover, however, will need some work, Savander said.

"The handover case is not that common," he said. "We surveyed enterprises and people are ready to accept the fact when it drops [the call] when you go to the parking lot. They say 'I'll just call him back'."

The Finnish giant has also signed deals with Avaya and Cisco, so the phones can be connected to IP PBX networks.

The phones are the first major fruit of Nokia's young business devices division, which is hoping to boost Nokia's 25 per cent market share of data-centric devices. According to the Finnish company, the Eseries is aiming to charm CIOs with the device plus security plus applications package.

Mary McDowell, executive VP and GM of enterprise solution at Nokia, said the Eseries threesome "represents the first in what will hopefully be an extensive range of devices over time", adding: "It's a challenge sometimes to design these devices – you need the sex appeal where people take them around and show them off and at the same time, they have to pass muster with the CIO."

According to Chris Lewis, enterprise practice leader at analyst house Ovum, the trio have made a good business combo for the handset maker. "The BlackBerry device is good and appealing for email but people don't like it as a phone. "If Nokia can do that application well, and do others and do [integration with applications] that gives it an advantage."

The phones will be available from the first quarter of next year and are expected to cost between €350 and €450, unsubsidised.

The Eseries announcement follows on the heels of Nokia's launch of its own push email last month.

The mobile email market is set to build up a head of steam over the coming years, according to analysts.

By 2008, according to research firm Gartner, mobile email will be available on all smart phones with $9bn being spent on mobile data in North America alone. Fellow research firm Quocirca found that 60 per cent of enterprises are now considering rolling out mobile email, with 18 per cent of companies carrying out a business-led deployment.