Nokia targets businesses with shiny dual-mode E51

Nokia has simplified parts of the users interface for the E51, the newest addition to the company's line of business mobiles.

Nokia released on Tuesday the newest addition to its E-series lineup of mobile phones for businesses, revamping the user interface for easier navigation, executives said during a London product launch.

The E51 is a dual-mode model, working with GSM networks and Wi-Fi hotspots for businesses eyeing or already using so-called "converged" services -- VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology alongside traditional phone networks.

Nokia is hoping to spur businesses to adopt its E-series phones by convincing IT managers they'll save money over the long term by using the mobiles in combination with VoIP software. The unsubsidized price of the E51 will be a‚ £350 (US$485) and should be available in the last three months of the year.

Cost savings through converged fixed line and mobile networks are a "door opener" for IT managers, said Mary McDowell, executive vice president and general manager of Nokia's Enterprise Solutions division.

Expensive data plans -- which increase the total bill for companies every time employees read e-mail -- remain a barrier, although Nokia has brought the issue up with operators, McDowell said.

Still, Nokia sees big opportunities, as 44 percent of businesses still lack plans for mobile usage by their employees, said Antti Vasara, senior vice president for the mobile devices unit of Enterprise Solutions.

Nokia simplified the E51's main navigation window and added setup wizards for functions such as e-mail to make it easier during the initial set-up, Vasara said.

Those improvements came to address user complaints that those functions were "more difficult" than on other models, Vasara said. Another improvement lets users access frequently used features, such as e-mail or their calendar, with the push of only one button, he said.

The E51, which runs the S60 series operating system, may be built for business, but it's shiny, slim and attractive, forgoing a fattening QWERTY keypad to keep its figure. It has a 2-megapixel camera and an FM radio.

The device will perhaps fill the void caused by Nokia's E70 mobile. Despite the full, fold-out keyboard that extended to the left and the right of the main screen, the E70 has not been very popular despite doing well in initial user trials, McDowell said.

The E51 is compatible with Nokia's Intellisync Call Connect software for businesses using equipment and software from Cisco Systems Inc. and Alcatel-Lucent SA. The Intellisync software enables desktop phone functions -- such as call forwarding, extension dialing, hold and conferences, among others -- for mobiles.

BT Group PLC will test a client version of its BT Corporate Fusion software next month on the E51, with expanded trials by the end of the year, said Rakesh Mahaja, global director of mobility for BT Global Services.

BT's Corporate Fusion software uses Wi-Fi to let mobile devices communicate with the fixed network, and runs applications and other calling management functions through an IP network.

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