The next version of Nokia's Communicator PDA-phone will contain IBM software to keep business applications running smoothly when users roam from cellular to Wi-Fi networks. The Nokia 9500, due by the end of 2004, will include Wi-Fi and middleware clients from IBM to handle connections, the two companies are announcing today at the 3GSM world congress in Cannes.

Developers in enterprises will be able to write applications using Java tools and have them run on different kinds of networks and even on successive generations of client devices, company executives said.

As Wi-Fi networks proliferate in enterprises and public places and mobile operators deploy increasingly fast cellular data networks, more capacity has become available for running enterprise applications on the move. However, keeping those applications running while moving among different types of networks is more complicated than finding the highest speed around. Nokia and IBM aim to make the experience smoother.

The technology will become available in the fourth quarter of this year when the Nokia Communicator 9500 hits the market. The combination cell phone and handheld computer, the next generation of a long line of devices from Nokia, will be joined by more Communicator devices in 2005, according to Nokia. The current Communicator 9210, like earlier models of the device nicknamed "the Brick", is a phone that flips open to reveal a wide keyboard and LCD screen. The 9500 will be a sleeker version of the current model, said Scott Lindgren, director of product marketing at Nokia.

The tri-band GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) phone will support IEEE 802.11b wireless LANs as well as EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) for data communications. It runs on the Nokia Series 80 software platform, which is based on the Symbian operating system. Founded by a partnership, Symbian is now effectively under Nokia control an arrangement which our analysis suggests will not hurt Symbian's prospects.

Developers at software vendors and in enterprises will be able to use a desktop Java Development Kit to extend their existing Java-based applications to the Communicator, which will come with Java 2 Mobile Edition Personal Profile runtime environment that enables integration of middleware, according to a statement by the companies. J2ME is currently available on a long list of devices.

On the device, WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager Client will direct the application to the fastest available network. IBM's Lotus Sametime Instant Messaging Client software will run on the Communicator, so users can keep in touch with their colleagues wherever they are, the companies said. Their moves will be transparent to the application and to other users, said Eugene Cox, director of mobile solutions at IBM.

The network hand-off mechanism could allow enterprises to take their employees' data sessions off the mobile operator's paid network and on to the free internal Wi-Fi network without making prior arrangements with the mobile operator, Cox said.

IBM and Nokia have zeroed in on sales people and field workers in the pharmaceutical, insurance and government sectors as initial users of the technology, the companies said. Those employees could use the Communicators to get to sales manuals and work orders, for example. Seibel Systems plans to support the Communicator's capabilities in its Pharma customer relationship management software, according to the statement.

In addition to making applications available on the Communicators, enterprise IT managers will be able to manage the devices with IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager and Tivoli Configuration Manager, which they also can use to manage desktop and notebook PCs. They will be able to send configuration settings and software downloads to the Communicators over the wireless network, the companies said.

The deal is not exclusive for either partner, officials said.

Nokia estimates the 9500 Communicator will sell at retail in Europe for about €800 (US$1,003). The pricing of IBM's software in the package will depend on which components are used and the size of the engagement, according to IBM.