Smart moves

Nokia used the launch of its E51 mobile device to announce an ambitious new strategy designed to bolster productivity through business mobility. Imthishan Giado reports from London.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  November 4, 2007

The launch of an entry level enterprise handset is not usually an earthshaking event. For Nokia, however, it was an opportunity to introduce its grand design for the enterprise market which, if adopted, would see businesses shifting from office workers chained to their desk phones answering e-mails, to a mobile workforce using handsets such as their new entry level device, the E51, to communicate and to view and send data.

Antti Vasara, senior vice president of mobile devices at Nokia says: "The E51 is ideal for business professionals who require reliable, real time access to business and people, need to manage time effectively and value a single device that is easy to setup, maintain and use."

Two thirds of companies don’t even know what devices they have in their company.

The Series 60-based phone includes UMTS, HSPDA and Wi-Fi. Like its bigger E-series brothers, it can make calls through corporate VoIP gateways. Nokia presently supports Cisco and Alcatel PBX systems through its IntelliSync Call Connect software, which duplicates most common desk phone functionality.

Mary McDowell, executive vice president and general manager for enterprise solutions at Nokia, added that given the size of Nokia's presence in the Middle East, the region would be among the earliest to receive the E51, which is expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The challenge with enterprise focused devices like the E51 is to convince companies to proceed with widespread adoption and deployment. However, most firms consider handsets a personal choice for users.

"Surveys have shown that two thirds of companies don't even know what devices they have in their company - or if they even still have the same devices that the company has bought. Inventory management - just basically knowing what you have - is becoming a core requirement," notes Vasara.

Apart from the launch of the E51, Nokia also introduced its Mobile Unified Communications concept. This strategy aims to eliminate the traditional desk phone and replace it with a single mobile device which serves both the personal and business needs of office workers, while retaining the complete functionality of desk phones. Vasara questions the need for a business user to have multiple devices and contact numbers and asks businesses to consider the alternatives.

Of course, what first comes to the minds of decision makers when considering this approach is the potential for significant cost savings rerouting phone calls through corporate VoIP gateways or through public Wi-Fi networks. Rakesh Mahajan, director of mobility at BT Global Services, cautions against such a simplistic view.

"The first question CIOs always ask me is, ‘when am I going to have cheap calls?' I then ask them if they have complete full Wi-Fi coverage within their building that is also capable of carrying voice. ‘I hadn't thought about that,' they reply. I ask, ‘Do you know how many people sit at their desk or walk around making calls.' The answer is no one knows.

"Cost savings are potentially there. For buildings where you've got lots of people making calls away from their desk, with full Wi-Fi coverage, with devices that are dual-mode, there will be cost savings. But the minute you start questioning those assumptions, the business case becomes difficult," he says.

Mahajan goes on to state what he believes is the real objective of unified communications: "When you actually talk to a customer - which we don't do enough in the industry - the number one thing they want is more efficiency and productivity from their employees. The top three things they look for is responding to customer needs more quickly, reducing downtime with employees, and driving increased collaboration."

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