Undermining expectations at Mobile World Congress

Android MIA, Windows resurgence, the anti-iPhone and more

In the United Kingdom, the phone costs about US$115, or comes free with a monthly service contract of about US$21. Comparable smartphones are closer to US$200 when subsidized by carriers, and often require one- or two-year service contracts. A reviews story quoted Frank Meehan, INQ's CEO, on the company's strategy: "Most manufacturers are spending billions of dollars going after the iPhone with limited success. But 80% of the market can't afford an iPhone and the corresponding service plan."

You can get the INQ phone in the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland via a mobile operator called 3. It will be available in Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and Hong Kong over the next month, and in the United States by years-end.

Integration: the new "wow-factor"

INQ isn't alone in integrating the handset user interface with the applications available on the mobile Web. Microsoft took another step with its news of the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, an application store that will come installed on all future Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. It also announced the free My Phone service, which offers Web-based automatic backup and synchronization of phone data and content.

Nokia expanded the breadth of its own online service offerings, branded Ovi, by announcing the Ovi Store, which will be accessible to vast numbers of S40 and S60 Nokia devices. Going beyond Apple's current App Store, the Ovi service will be able to key applications to a user's new location, and let users see what their contacts and friends have been downloading from the store. The store will open in May in nine countries.

In a related move, Nokia is working with Skype to create a VoIP client for Nokia's just announced, top of the line, S60-based N97 mobile computer. The client will work with the device's address book, just as it does on the INQ1, to make placing calls to Skype users as simple as making a cell call. The software will be available in the third quarter.

That emphasis on mobile integration is the key to Palm's new Pre smartphone, due out in the next month or so, and its new webOS software. In Barcelona, Palm showcased the UMTS version of the Pre. And it released online the first chapter of a new book from O'Reilly Media, "Palm webOS: Developing Applications in JavaScript Using the Palm Mojo Framework." It was the first step in publicly revealing details of the software platform. The company also joined Adobe's Open Screen Project, to incorporate Adobe Flash Player with the webOS software by the end of 2009.

Palm has claimed that any developers familiar with common tools like Cascading Style Sheets, XHTML, JavaScript and the like easily will be able to create applications that can run on the Pre. The webOS itself is multitasking, and Palm has demonstrated the Pre's Palm Synergy application, a program that creates a single, integrated means of tracking and organizing multiple online calendars, contacts and messaging applications. If you update a contact on your Palm Pre, Synergy updates the same data on any of your online accounts.

That approach suggests a direction for enterprise mobile development. Many of the handsets and operating systems are aimed at consumers. But the need for what could be called "intuitive integration" is even more pressing on the enterprise side, coupled with stringent security requirements. This year's MWC, almost in spite of itself, has given an outline of a promising new emphasis in enterprise mobile computing.

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John Cox

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