Nokia to call on large retailers with new phone

Nokia Products Ltd. is exploring alternate distribution channels for one of its latest handsets.

The recently-released Nokia 9290 Communicator is an integrated mobile terminal that offers phone, e-mail, fax, calendar, imaging and Internet

capabilities, among other features. This places the product outside of the traditional mobile phone category, which is why Nokia is thinking about other distribution and sales channels, according to Doug Dawson, spokesperson for the Ajax, Ont.-based manufacturer.

“I think when you’re looking at a device like this, it’s much more than a mobile phone,” Dawson said at a product briefing Thursday. “It’s almost entering into that converged device. It borders almost on a computer-esque type device.”

Renee Szuhai, Nokia’s business development manager, said she couldn’t comment on who the third-party resellers for the Communicator will be. But Dawson said Nokia is looking at possibly selling the Communicator through computer resellers and some of the larger retailers, such as Future Shop Ltd. “We haven’t made any public announcements yet in Canada but we anticipate making some very soon.”

Szuhai added that although the device will still work with Fido’s circuit switch data transferring capabilities, it remains to be seen whether Fido will actually sell the Communicator.

Whatever carrier or reseller ends up carrying the product will have to put its reps through some training to get them up to speed on all of the capabilities, Dawson said.

“I think education is going to be the key. I think with some education, it’ll be easier for them to pitch, so to speak. We have to make sure that our resellers are knowledgeable about all of our products.”

He added that Nokia already has an integrated training system available to carriers, which will be extended to any other reseller channels, if necessary.

On Tuesday Canada’s four major wireless carriers, Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility, Rogers AT&T Wireless and Microcell Telecommunications Inc., announced official short message service (SMS) interoperability. Dawson predicted that text messaging, primarily a European and Asian phenomenon for now, will become increasingly popular in North America. “Now the walls have come down and SMS is going to take off because of interoperability,” he said. The Communicator’s QWERTY keyboard will make it easier to type out text, he added.

However, a report released by The Ottawa-based Yankee Group in Canada last week indicated that it’s too early to predict how well SMS will be accepted in Canada.

The Communicator, which won’t be available in Canada until this summer, enables the user to view and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents, and to view PowerPoint presentations. Internet access is available through both wireless application protocol (WAP) and HTML-based, frames-supporting browsers. SyncML support enables the synchronization of contact, calendar and other information across SyncML-enabled PCs, PDAs and mobile phones.

The Communicator is also Java-enabled, which opens up all kinds of possibilities for users and developers alike, Dawson said. “[Java developers] love devices like this because they can just create a little Applet. It doesn’t require much of their time and energy.

Dawson said the device is expected to cost about $1,000.

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