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Demand for WAP handset "unprecedented", says Nokia boss

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Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) supporters Nokia and Phone.com are claiming that demand for WAP, a technology that allows mobile phones to access the Web, is set to skyrocket. Jorma Ollila, cellphone vendor Nokia's chairman and chief executive, said this week the company had shipped over 100,000 WAP phones since the end of September -- a level of demand, Matti Alahuhta, the executive in charge of Nokia's mobile phone production, described as "unprecedented". Ollila said Nokia was pushing hard to ramp up prduction to meed that demand. Certainly, the company is having a job getting sufficient volumes of its Nokia 7110 WAP-enabled handset out there. Even Orange, the UK mobile phone network, which last week opened its Web-based data service, was unable to provide 7110s at the launch, as promised. Meanwhile, Phone.com, formerly Unwired Planet, this week predicted that by 2003, more than half of the world's one billion mobile phone subscribers will be connected to the Internet via WAP-enabled devices. "The millions [WAP phone sales] will come in the first and second quarter of next year," Malcolm Bird, the company's MD and European VP told Reuters. Possibly, but since WAP uses a derivative of XML, called WML, to format Web pages for display on a WAP-enabled device's screen, requiring sites to run WAP sites in parallel with their existing HTML-based pages, it will be interesting to see whether those millions of phones will actually have much Internet content to display. ®

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