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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK


Business: The Economy

New life for old phones

Picture this: a phone which can take photos

by the BBC's Sarah Boxhall for World Business Report

This man has seen the future.

The telecoms revolution
Hidden in his case is the next generation of mobile phones: the prototype mobile that brings you the internet, the e-commerce phone with its own smart card - and, just like concept cars, there are concept mobiles.

Parents be warned: there's one aimed at six-year-olds.

And in about four years' time expect all-singing, all-dancing phones that allow you to watch and record video and music.


The BBC's Sarah Boxhall: "Communication, by its very nature, is where innovation will never cease"
Jacques Combet , vice-president of the Mobile Phones Business Unit at French mobile phone company Alcatel, said: "This phone can be used to take a picture of you. So it will be a totally different applications which will drive a new format, a new design."

With the world's first web phone, which costs about $450, you can send e-mails and access the internet through the screen on the phone.

Alcatel believes it will encourage more people in France to get connected.


[ image: Some phones will connect to the internet]
Some phones will connect to the internet
Paul-Henri Ferrand of Alcatel, said: "About 92% of people not connected to the internet from home and we expect this to become the next generation of phone, with access to the internet."

Converging the internet with traditional telecoms is at the heart of Alcatel's strategy - but it hasn't always been. The company has been through a metamorphosis over the last five years.

In an attempt to gain ground, Alcatel has been disposing of non-core businesses and acquiring American internet companies. It has meant a change of culture and a change of pace.

The company missed the trend for wireless phones and does not want to be left behind over the internet.

Jacques Dunogue, secretary-general of Alcatel,said: "I think the real risk is not being fast enough the name of the game in this ind is speed and whoever doesn't work fast enough is in real danger of being left aside."

Alcatel is not the only company having to refocus itself in the internet age.


[ image: Carly Fiorina: we'll build more partnerships]
Carly Fiorina: we'll build more partnerships
As the boundaries between telecoms and new technology become blurred, traditional companies in both areas are questioning the way they do business.

Hewlett Packard may be one of the world's largest computer and printing companies, but was slow to embrace the internet.

Now under the direction of a new chief executive, it is reinventing itself, concentrating on end-to-end electronic commerce and services.

Carly Fiorina, President and Chief Executive, of Hewlett-Packard, said: "One of my top priorities in my first 90 days has been to draft a plan for reinvigorating the brand."

The company is also going for growth - that is, acquisitions and partnerships.

Ms Fiorina said: "I do believe that as the communications and computing industries come together, you will see us continuing to build partnerships with more traditional telecoms players."

The company has already announced a link-up with Nokia.





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