Nokia has added Wi-Fi to the 9300 - the smaller version of its "brick", the 9500 Communicator. There's one drawback though - according to the release, it won't do Blackberry e-mail over Wi-Fi.
It's not due until the new year, and there's no price as yet, but the Wi-Fi enabled 9300i looks like eroding the difference between the 9500 and the 9300, which was launched earlier this year.
The Communicator series has been popular for nearly 10 years, since its launch in 1996, due to its design: a somewhat large phone that folds open to reveal a large screen (currently 640x200 with 64k colours), and a full Qwerty keyboard at a usable size. The 9300i will have 54Mbit/s 802.11g built in, and be available in two versions - a GSM one aimed at Europe and a CDMA version aimed at the US. The keyboard can also be localised to different countries' preferred layouts.
Although other Qwerty phones have appeared since the Communicator arrived, Nokia is keeping the features fresh on the 9300i, with support for a Blackberry e-mail client, as well as competing push e-mail systems from Seven, Visto and others.
Nokia's deal with IBM continues: this phone will run client software which links with IBM's Websphere middleware, and keeps business applications connected.
The 9300i will have 80MB on-board memory, and an MMC slot that can take up to 2GB more.
But the press release has a sting in the tail: "Please note: Email solutions such as BlackBerry and Visto do not support WLAN functionality". This remark seems to be another instance of how relations have cooled between Nokia and RIM, since Nokia produced its own rival push email product, Nokia Business Center.
A Nokia spokesperson said that services such as Blackberry and Visto are hosted by operators and "it is up to them to decide how traffic is handled". Cellular operators do not tend to prioritise revenue-losing opportunities, and are not likely to enable the ability to send data over someone else's Wi-Fi network.
The limitation already applied to the 9500, she said. Nokia has perhaps brought it to our attention now because it's own Nokia Business Center, doesn't suffer the same problem. Because it is hosted behind the firewall by the enterprise, and under enterprise control, she said: "Nokia Business Center will support WLAN functions, and let you use whatever network is available."
A spokesman for Vodafone (which now sells email services based on both Visto and Blackberry Connect) confirmed that neither works over Wi-Fi. There is also now mention of Wi-Fi in Blackberry's page on the product or in the manual [pdf] for Blackberry Connect on the 9300 and 9500, carried by Singapore operator Starhub.