Will Symbian cure Domino wireless woes?

Domino administrators, your wait for better mobile devices may be over. Lotus' parent company, IBM, announced recently that Mobile Notes/Domino will soon access mobile devices using Symbian 6.0, a new software platform from Symbian Ltd., a consortium formed by Nokia, Ericsson and other wireless manufacturers. Version 6.0 supports hand-held devices with 240x320 color screens, stylus applications and handwriting recognition (as well as...

keyboard-based devices with 640x200 color screens).

Through Symbian 6.0, Mobile Notes users will be able to "complete forms, participate in workflows, access sales force automation tools, or run interactive applications locally on their [Symbian] mobile device," according to a March 22 joint press release from IBM and Symbian.

Trouble is, few mobile phones and PDAs support Symbian 6.0, which is competing viciously with the Microsoft Pocket PC platform and the Palm OS. Nokia will be the first company to produce a Symbian 6.0 device for Notes/Domino users; its 9210 Communicator phone/PDA hybrid will access corporate e-mail, calendar and directories on the Domino server via Lotus Domino Everyplace Access Server.

Ericsson's R380, meanwhile, will feature Everyplace Access Server and instant messaging through Lotus Sametime Everyplace. Both phones are due out this spring.

Stung by Microsoft's Stinger?

Not surprisingly, Microsoft is slamming the Symbian phones for being too heavy and too difficult to use (see article listed below). But Ericsson and Nokia defend their products, and Symbian chief executive Colly Meyers says Microsoft's proprietary mobile platforms discourage the development of third-party software. And the company's forthcoming Stinger phone/PDAs will provide access only to Microsoft applications.

Symbian 6.0 supports the WAP, WML, HTML and the Java runtime environment, through which users can run Java-based applets on their phones. Developers can also create their own speech-to-text recognition, handwriting, and stylus-based applications for Symbian 6.0 devices, according to Infoworld.

Still, the usefulness of Symbian 6.0 devices may be limited. Users will still find Web browsing on a WAP phone to be a "frustrating, disappointing experience," says IDC analyst Mark Levitt, in a recent IDG News story. Of the Symbian phones, he says, "We're not talking about surfing the Web here with this. We're talking here about a much more limited, fixed content base."

Got a hankering for Symbian handhelds, but no grip on the mobile platform debate? searchDomino recommends these links:

"Lotus has an existing customer base that wants to stay connected," says IDC's Mark Levitt, in this story about Domino-compatible mobile phones. "Lotus realizes that it can't do it alone."
http://www.idg.net/ic_484483_2193_1-1504.html

Symbian faces an uphill battle against the Palm OS and Pocket PC, according to this comparison of the mobile device platforms.
http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/2001/5/ns-20759.html

Symbian 6.0 replaces Symbian's previous platform, EPOC Release 5. Read this technical paper for more data on its new features.
http://www.symbian.com/technology/v6-papers/sp/papers-sp.html

Microsoft's proprietary mobile technologies "are fundamentally flawed," says Symbian's Colly Myers in this February ZDNet UK article. Myers says Microsoft is hurting everyone, including users, by resisting open standards.
http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/2001/7/ns-21150.html

"Total cost of ownership of mobile devices is usually many times higher than the price of the device itself," writes VNUNet's Bob Apollo. Apollo offers IT managers excellent buying advice for mobile devices in this piece.
http://www.vnunet.com/ComputingColumns/1119427

Mark Baard is a contributing writer based in Milton, Mass.

This was first published in April 2001

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