Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/10/13/nokia_eseries_analysis/

Nokia E-phones might finally mean business

Campus VoIP and OMA DM aren't sexy, but matter

By Andrew Orlowski

Posted in Mobile, 13th October 2005 23:57 GMT

Analysis When Nokia launched its most serious business phone yet, the 9210 Communicator four years ago, TV adverts to promote the device showed executives in suits doing stunts on pedal scooters.

Leaping executives. On pedal scooters.

Why?

We still haven't been able to figure that one out, but it suggested Nokia was really rather hopeful about capturing the hearts and minds of IT departments.

Finally, after threatening to do so for many years, Nokia at last looks an enterprise contender - at least in the sense that it's got all the technology in place. Now Mary McDowell's division needs to figure out how to sell data devices into corporate accounts where phones today simply mean voice - something we contend that no one, not even RIM, has yet done.

We'll start with the technology, which is slightly terrifying.

The three E-series phones Nokia unveiled yesterday seem to have been designed to prove the point that the great acronym race of recent years wasn't a problem for the company. While the competition hasn't stood still, with the JasJar (reviewed here) offering an impressive tick list of features, the veteran mobile manufacturer has simply taken them in its stride.

All three phones in the E-series range support the latest high speed networks including Wi-Fi in its 802.11g, 802.11e and 802.11i flavors, and W-CDMA 3G. Push To Talk is supported on all models, and a previous taboo, IP telephony, is now touted as one of the strongest selling points. It is indeed a potential 'killer app' for enterprises, and we'll deal with this in a moment - but first of all, let's look at what the E-series means to the pound phone in your pocket.

The ever shrinking phone

Most immediately impressive is the form factor. Overnight, these phones double the screen acreage on offer to a Series 60 user today. Apple isn't the only company that can squeeze last year's technology into a tiny space to make room for this year's, with its ever-shrinking iPod, as this week's product announcements show.

It's hard to imagine that it was only two years ago that Hutchison launched its 3G network into Europe with a range of phones that wouldn't have looked out of place in the A-team: and even then, these gigantic and cumbersome devices barely had enough juice for an hour's talk time.

Nokia E70

Nokia E70

Sony Ericsson seemed to be intent on proving the same point this week when its P910i successor the P990 added 3G and Wi-Fi in a package only 1mm larger all round, and only 5g heavier than its predecessor. (And knowing hardware designers, I'll bet that millimeter was very hard fought). Now Nokia's phones are even smaller.

Alongside a no-nonsense model, the E60, is a BlackBerry knock-off, the E61. Previously, Nokia has been positively Lutheran in its determination to segment its market between one-handed phones and its two-handed 9000 Series Communicator. Now it seems to be saying: "hey, if you want a BlackBerry clone, we'll give you a BlackBerry clone".

And Nokia's secret weapon, the design most envied by its rivals, finally appears in a Symbian version: the fold-out, "mousetrap" keyboard. Most BlackBerry users send messages shorter than 100 characters, suggesting that the device is used primarily for reading. But when a reply is needed - and usually it's a very quick acknowledgement - the market has voted for QWERTY keys.

This mousetrap design first appeared in the 6800 two years ago, and combines the best of both worlds: one-handed, it's a compact phone; two-handed it offers a keyboard better than what any of its rivals such as RIM, Palm or HP currently offer.

Have a look at the comparison table on the next page to see how the E61 and E70 shape up.

Weighing the Crackberry Contenders

Device Weight (g) Length (mm) Width (mm) Height (mm) Volume (ml) Screen (pixels) Keyboard Wi-Fi 3G 2.5G
Palm Treo 650 178 113 59 23 153 320×320 (102,400) QWERTY No No Yes
HP iPaq h6300 189 138 75 21 139 640×480 (307,200) QWERTY 802.11b No Yes
RIM BlackBerry 7100v 120 114 46 20 128 240×240 (57,600) SureType™ No No Yes
Nokia E61 144 117 70 14* 108 320×240 (76,800) QWERTY 802.11i,g,l Yes Yes
Nokia E70 127 117 53 22 102 354×416 (147,264) QWERTY 802.11i,g,l Yes Yes

Compared to the Nokia 6800, the E70 weights in only 3cc, 2mm longer, 1mm wider and 1mm deeper. Only it incorporates a 354×416 (or double Series 60 v1&2 screen), the latest Wi-Fi and 3G. You get the idea.

Anyone concerned that the smartphone business (or for that matter, the MP3 player business) was becoming commoditized should take heed. Apple, Sony Ericsson and Nokia all seem to want to remind us of the old engineering maxim: anyone can build something with 100 parts, but to do it with say, just six, requires great engineering.

That's not all. The new models also boast up to 7+ hours talk time - a consequence, we suspect, of the decision to base development on the Symbian 9.1 real time EKA2 kernel. This is not only vastly more power efficient than rival Linux, WinCE and Palm rivals but allows Nokia to put baseband GSM radio onto a single chip too, which means a cheaper bill of materials.

(Our review of the imate JasJar noted that it performed well - but stung the user with a price tag close to $1000 - more than many budget laptops).

However Nokia doesn't really want you, or its competitors to look too closely under the hood, but rather look at the software support for enterprises.

Mail and Campus VoIP

Looking back to the four year old 9210 "Corporate Solutions" page, we noted this rather hopeful note:

POP3 and IMAP4 are supported for incoming mail and SMTP for outgoing mail. … Microsoft Exchange server also supports all these protocols and, depending on your need, they all can either be used together or in separate servers."

And that was it.

This week our inbox for the E-series announcement was flooded with releases from enterprise mail vendors. Good has brought GoodLink to Series 60, BlackBerry Connect will be supported, Visto and two versions of Seven's mail platform provide more options, as is Nokia's own new enterprise mail service, with Exchange support licensed from Microsoft.

Nokia E70, with keyboard open

Nokia E70

Remote configurability is also much improved from four years ago, and almost as a footnote Nokia points out these devices support the first generation of OMA DM, so the "desktop" can be pushed out to the remote client, and the device can be locked down quickly from the IT help desk.

And VoIP?

Well, Nokia isn't exactly shouting about the ability to make SIP calls. But it didn't shout about this feature of the 9300 and the 7710, which have been on the market some time.

But it is pushing these devices at enterprises who have already made the decision to deploy campus wide VoIP. As Jim Hughes and others have noticed -

Companies deploying an Avaya or Cisco IP PBX can connect the new Nokia devices directly to their corporate phone networks, enabling functions employees have come to expect from a corporate network like four-digit dialing and assiste call answering. Companies deploying an Avaya or Cisco IP PBX can connect the new Nokia devices directly to their corporate phone networks, enabling functions employees have come to expect from a corporate network like four-digit dialing and assisted call answering.

Rather than positioning the E-series as a killer device, Nokia's more subtle approach seems to be rather, "if you want to do X - and we know you do - then this is the best value way of implementing it". And plenty of enterprises want to use VoIP, starting where they can, and where WLANs are already up and running.

It's hard to see how Nokia could have made these more compelling. Corporate mobile data only exists in niches - such as fleet services that use GPS - and in the mainstream only RIM has successfully made a business out of providing something neither the carriers nor terminal manufacturers could adequately provide. That look set to change. ®