Sci-fi cell phones

Visions of Captain Kirk flipping open his communicator to talk to the Star Ship Enterprise no longer fill audiences with disbelief and awe. In fact, that type of future has already arrived. So where do we boldly go from here to seek out new phones and new communications? Mobile Executive went to Alcatel.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  December 13, 2000

Visions of Captain Kirk flipping open his communicator to talk to the Star Ship Enterprise no longer fill audiences with disbelief and awe. In fact, that type of future has already arrived. So where do we boldly go from here to seek out new phones and new communications? Mobile Executive went to Alcatel.

Sci-fi design mixed with futuristic functionality. In an exclusive for the Middle East, Alcatel executives flew into Dubai from Paris to brief Mobile Executive on future trends in the mobile phone sector and the significance of design in understanding the region's transition to 3G.

Bertrand Minckes, Alcatel's design development manager, revealed 15 of the design concepts underpinning the Group's evolution of a next generation of phones including the Marksu, which offers a comfort system for distance intimacy which dispenses sweet talk, images and odour to recreate the evocative universe of intimate pleasure.

Other models disclosed to the Mobile team ranged from the Pey-ann, a jewellery communications device based around the themes of being personal and feminine, and permitting the transmission of icons with hidden meanings as well as normal endearments to the Yung, a portable music studio and mixing suite.

The Yung downloads music from the Internet and then enables users to re-mix and re-balance it to taste with an integrated personal FX selector. The phone then allows the final cut to be re-dispatched to friends. The Yung also comes equipped with headphones tied to a vibrator for additional sensations.

In a series of exchanges between Mobile and the heart of Alcatel's research, development and design operations in Paris, France, Mobile learned that marketing has increasingly displaced sales as the primary strategic driver of Alcatel, mainly because it bridges the gap between engineering and sales.

Is this true of Alcatel? "Alcatel was the first in the mobile phone industry to design phones that fit to the Middle East demand for localization, specifically by introducing an Arabic interface and dedicated marketing tools.

By anticipating the Middle East's market needs we are perceived today as the major player, both in technology and branding," said Minckes.

Alcatel's two pronged strategy: handsets and infrastructure. The strategy has seen the increasing significance of Alcatel's having both an infrastructure and mobile telephone division? "Having an infrastructure division and a mobile phone division recognizes Alcatel's insistence on offering end to end solutions to operators, including optics, cable, switching. We believe that serious telecommunications players need to master all elements of the value chain. Those that do not do this cannot fully understand or respond to the customer - or provide comprehensive tailored solutions," Mincke clarified.

Alcatel's high profile visit to the Middle East was designed to recognise the significance of the region to the Group, and Alcatel's historically close relations with the region.

"The Middle East is a strategic area for mobile phone activities. Market sizes and dedicated resources show our commitment. For instance every year for the past three years we have launched new products tailored to the local market, including new and innovative features such as our Arabic carrying case and, this year, a new Arabic keypad. Alcatel has a reputation of being a pioneer in Arabia and we will continue to prove ourselves worthy of this acclaim," Mincke emphasized.

Alcatel is probably best known for its One Touch East mobile phone that, in 1997, represented the world's first genuinely consumer, rather than business, handheld.

It's famous round shape, and its availability in a wide variety of colours is said by many to have revolutionized the mobile phone market.

Other Alcatel innovations include its 1998 development of the One Touch Com, the world's first pocket format smartphone and, in 1999, its development of the world's first pre-WAP Internet GSM in the form of the One Touch Pocket.

The new models revealed to Mobile are part of Alcatel's strategy to "materialize concepts", according to Mincke.

"Alcatel is working with design schools such as L'ensci les Ateliers in Paris and Shih Chien University in Taiwan to understand the heart of "the creative atmosphere."

Those concepts will never be manufactured exactly as they appear - they are concepts. Concepts are inevitably futuristic - and will inevitably conflict with real world sales objectives.

"For example, this year we set ourselves the prospect of selling 20 Million phones. But they are a vital part of a number of references which will guide the evolution of our phones," Mincke explained.

Alcatel's design department was created in 1994 with 2 people. This year it encompasses a team of more than more 21 people working in areas ranging from design and ergonomics to 3D modelling surfaces and graphic design.

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