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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 16:36 GMT
Nokia opens up its phones
Line-up of Nokia mobile handsets, Nokia
Nokia has a commanding lead in handset sales
Phone makers and mobile network operators are banding together to boost the chances that future handsets will prove popular.

Finnish phone giant Nokia has founded an alliance that will share information about the workings of handsets to ensure that forthcoming services can be used by any phone owner.

Significantly, the alliance includes NTT DoCoMo, which has already launched a third-generation mobile phone network in Japan.

The alliance has also agreed to co-operate with a coalition of computer companies working on ways to make it easy to access data while on the move.

Holding handsets

Nokia unveiled the "open mobile architecture initiative" at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas last week and clarified who had joined the alliance more recently.

Nokia has pledged to reveal the workings of the software controlling its handsets to members of the alliance.

Nokia net phone partners
AT&T Wireless
Cingular Wireless
NTT DoCoMo
Vodafone
Sony
Ericsson
Motorola
Siemens
Sharp
Samsung
NEC
Matsushita
MM02
Telefonica Moviles
Fujitsu
Mitsubishi
Toshiba
This is significant because before now most handset makers have developed the software and electronics to control handsets largely in isolation.

This has effectively divided phone users by the handset they own, and has also limited the range of services that can be offered to all mobile phone subscribers.

But with all phones working to a common set of specifications, it should become easier for mobile network operators to offer services to more customers.

The alliance is particularly interested in ensuring that future third-generation phones can use the widest set of services possible.

Experts speculate that customers will only sign up to new networks if they get significantly more from them than their existing service.

Dominant mobile

Nokia's dominance of the handset industry has been likened to Microsoft's control of the desktop PC market. But Nokia's 33% share of the handset market is far below the 90% dominance Microsoft enjoys.

Before now, Nokia has been reluctant to hand over information about the inner workings of its phones because of fears that any disclosure might dent its dominance.

Now, Nokia is planning to work with the alliance to standardise how phones send and receive information, how they synchronise with desktop PCs or even servers located on another phone or data network, and how they package up information before it is sent.

The Nokia-backed group is also planning to work with the Liberty Alliance project. This group of computer companies is creating standardised identification systems that let people use one digital identity to unlock services accessed by phone, PC or handheld computer.

Microsoft strategy

Nokia said that it had not yet tried to recruit Microsoft, AOL Time Warner or Palm to the alliance, but it added that all were welcome to sign up.

However, joining the group could cause problems for Microsoft, which has set its face against some of the technologies the new alliance is backing.

The Nokia-led group will use the Java programming language to make it easier to add new functions to future phones, and allow people to sign up to services quickly.

In the past, Microsoft has worked with Java, but in recent months has started to push its own version of the programming language in an attempt to win supporters for its .Net initiative.

With .Net, Microsoft is trying to create a set of programming tools and software products that allows people to get at data and services no matter where they are, or what device they are using.

See also:

26 Apr 01 | UK
Secrets of good phones
09 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Rivals queue up to take on Microsoft
05 Nov 01 | Business
New flaw puts Passport offline
24 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Microsoft's XP extends reach
23 Aug 01 | Business
Charting the rise of Nokia
03 Sep 01 | Business
NTT DoCoMo unveils 3G package
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