Motorola, Nextel unveil keyboard for mobile phones

Motorola, in collaboration with Think Outside Inc., has released a full-size portable keyboard for wireless phones, the companies announced in a joint statement Monday.

The iBoard is designed for mobile workers, and is comparable to the size and feel of a laptop keyboard, said Motorola in a statement. Designed by Think Outside, branded by Motorola, and offered through wireless carrier Nextel Communications Inc., it is considered by Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst at Illuminata Inc., to be the first keyboard of its type for mobile phones. The iBoard works with current Motorola i85 and i50sx phones, and will be compatible with future versions of Motorola phones.

Users will be able to compose e-mail, surf the Web, and enter information into the date book or note pad functions on a keyboard that expands to 13.5 inches by 5 inches by .75 inches (34.29 centimeters by 12.7 centimeters by 1.9 centimeters) from 3.5 inches by 5 inches by .75 inches when collapsed. The keyboard will also have special function keys unique to Nextel services, allowing users to access Nextel's Web services through their cell phones.

Mobile communication companies are "looking for the magical combination" of features and accessories, said Eunice, based in Nashua, New Hampshire. The new iBoard represents an important step in the development of mobile technologies, as users will now have to consider whether they should own both a cell phone and a personal digital assistant (PDA), he said.

Other companies, such as L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., and Research in Motion Ltd., offer devices with keyboard inputs, but no one else has developed a full-size keyboard for ease of typing, said Eunice.

The keyboard is available now through Nextel and its subsidiaries, and retail channels. Pricing, as suggested by Motorola, is US$99.99.

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