Nokia will attempt to revive its own 9000 series communicator with a new model on Monday, according to reports. The clamshell"9230" will be a triband, GPRS model capable of MMS picture messaging, reckons Swedish phone mag Mobil.
Nokia launched the 9000 series in 1996, pioneering the "communicator" name. The first model used an Intel processor and GeoWorks' GEOS operating system, and the follow-up 9100 model, which used AMD Inside, shrunk the form factor considerably. Both gained a niche following with business users and sysadmins. Last year's 9200 was the first Symbian phone in the range, and debuted as the 9290 in the United States this summer.
It's been one of Nokia's lowest profile launches, with Nokia selling the phone direct from its website. And it's not hard to see why. Despite being capable of running vastly more advanced software than Handspring's Treo 300 or Danger's new Hiptop - the 9290 is equipped with Opera, and happily runs Flash, RealOne and even plays Doom - it relies on circuit switched GSM at 9,600bps and the traditional long connection times. Both the Treo and the Hiptop can take advantage of always-on packet data networks: cdma2000 1x or GPRS. (A CDMA Hiptop is forthcoming). North American carriers didn't invest in the faster HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) upgrade to GSM, which the 9290 can use and offers a theoretical 57,600 kbps, instead skipping on to GPRS.
Selling the 9290 direct might also have contributed to the device's low impact. Going direct increased Nokia's margin, but has removed any opportunity for retailers to offer their own discounts on the phone, or allow users to get one in their hands.
Nokia has also done a poor job of educating potential users to the advantages of the PIM software - and that education could start with Walt Mossberg, who seemed unaware of them in his WSJ review - Nokia's contacts and messaging trounce its rivals.
But the Treo and the Hiptop demonstrate that the most important part of a communicator is the communication. ®