LONDON, U.K. — While developers feverishly pitched mobile operators on next-generation smart phone applications at last month’s Symbian Expo, Cap Gemini released a study that found users would gladly trade in advanced features for simpler devices and easier payment.

While operators consider

video, picture messaging and other data services their primary means of competing in the market, 73 per cent of users don’t consider those options important, Cap Gemini vice-president Kieren Sheedy told a conference session audience.

He said many users said they would accept fewer data services in favour of a cheaper phone or more convenient purchasing plan. The survey also showed concerns over the complexity of devices.

Sheedy said 35 per cent of the 25 to 34 age group would prefer a simpler phone, as would 60 per cent of the 35 to 44 age group.

Integration with back-end systems

Though Cap Gemini conducted most of its research among consumers, Sheedy said the concerns mirror those of enterprise purchasers, who still see voice as their primary application.

Cell phones have traditionally been treated as a consumer device, but this year’s Symbian Expo was developed around a theme of pushing smart phones into the enterprise.

Miles Flint, president of Sony Ericsson (which has invested about $130 million in Symbian) pointed to a wealth of applications, including anti-virus, virtual private network software and device managers for mobile phones that could ease fears in the enterprise where IT infrastructure is slower to respond to mobile users’ needs. “”The CIO can relax,”” Flint said.

Gary Cohen, general manager of IBM’s pervasive computing unit, said some IT executives are daunted by the questions mobility raises. These include decisions around who needs access, what kind of connectivity is available and how users will interact with the network. This is one of the reasons independent software vendors need to extend middleware to take advantage of mobile IT infrastructure, he said.

“”We need as an industry to start thinking of a diversity, not just of servers and OSes, but devices,”” Cohen said, adding that devices need to be connected to back-end services that are seamlessly integrated.

Symbian’s chief executive officer, David Levin, said about 200 million phones will possess a hardware specification capable of running Symbian OS by 2008 or 2009, which represents the addressable market the company will be chasing over the next five years. Symbian is a privately-held firm co-owned by several vendors, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung.

One of Symbian’s challenges is to drive adoption of its standardized platform into more of the wider device industry, which still relies for the most part on proprietary operating systems, Levin said. To date, Symbian’s installed base has grown to 15 million, Levin said, with 10 licensees expected to develop 40 phones in the next 12-18 months.

One Canadian licencee, Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion, used the expo to get across the message that it wants to see the BlackBerrry wireless data service deployed on OSes and devices other than RIM’s own pager.

RIM director Susan Payne said when shopping for wireless data devices, companies look for wireless coverage, open standards, reliability and security.

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