Report from CeBIT 2002
By Justin Ried, Fri Mar 15 00:00:00 GMT 2002

The annual gathering in Hannover, Germany yields some amazing new gadgets - and a glimpse of what's just around the corner.


What do you get when you combine over 8,000 exhibitors, 50 exhibition halls, and hundreds of thousands of attendees? The world's largest IT gathering, otherwise known as CeBIT. And of course, TheFeature was there.

Flurries of new devices were announced this week from numerous vendors at CeBIT. Here's the rundown on the crème de la crème.

Nokia


Nokia announced no less than 5 new devices this week, including the 7210 - the company's first to use the Series 40 user interface. The 7210 is the long-awaited successor to the 7110, and sports a 4096 color screen, tri-band GPRS (900/1800/1900Mhz), MMS, J2ME (enabling user-downloadable apps), and an integrated FM radio. Also new is the 7210's ability to play polyphonic MIDI files as well as its Pop-Port interface connector (which will become standard on future releases).

Perhaps the most important factor in the 7210's launch is the use of Series 40 software, which rounds out Nokia's next-generation lineup of Series 40, 60, and 80 user interfaces. Now all three of Nokia's primary phone categories combine a next-generation interface, MMS and Java functionality. You can expect the 7210 to be delivered in Q3 2002 with a street price of around €450.

Both the 3410 and the 3510 were also delivered at CeBIT. The 3410 follows on the 3330 in Nokia's entry-level category. The 3410 offers a new design, a WAP browser and Java compatibility, enabling users to download new games from Club Nokia. The 3510 also sports a new design, more internal storage space (for up to 500 contacts, 150 SMS messages), three new games, a WAP browser, GPRS and MMS compatibility.

Also from Nokia is the 6310i and the 9210i, both enhancements of existing units. The 6310i sports a modest upgrade, adding tri-band GPRS and Java functionality to the 6310. The 9210i on the other hand, gets a more serious boost: A faster processor, more memory space for applications, a new Opera browser, RealOne Player, Macromedia Flash 5 Player, and VPN support. The only visual distinction between the 9210 and the 9210i is the new set of silver-colored keys on the front of the device.

SonyEricsson


SonyEricsson's stunning new P800 imaging phone was on display. The device, aimed a countering Nokia's 7650, features a built-in digital camera, tri-band GPRS, MMS, Bluetooth, email support, Java and uses Symbian OS 7. With a striking industrial design and a huge display, the pen-based device is due out in the third quarter of this year.

The company's new gaming unit, the Z700 was also on display. It features a color screen, picture SMS functionality (no MMS), is Java-enabled (allowing users to download additional games), and features GPRS. The T68 was also revved, and SonyEricsson announced the T68i. The T68 improves on the coveted T68's already outstanding industrial design and also its feature set by including enhanced multimedia functions and MMS.

02


The dark horse of this year's CeBIT was mm02 (formerly British Telecom). The company officially launched Europe's first device using Microsoft's new mobile OS, PocketPC 2002 Phone Edition, in the GPRS-enabled XDA (extended digital assistant).

The XDA packages the same 206Mhz processor as the Compaq iPAQ in a sleek case, and is at the same time both thinner and lighter than the iPAQ. It sports Pocket Outlook, Word, Excel, Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer. It is far and away the most attractive Pocket PC-based phone to date, and is a quantum leap beyond previous attempts like the grayscale Trium (Mitsubishi) Mondo and the clunky Siemens SX-45.

mm02 plans on launching the XDA for its networks (and only its networks) in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands. Sources indicate other operators are looking into licensing the device, so look for the XDA to break into other markets as well later this year.

Also announced at the show was Pocket PC 2002 Smartphone Edition, and Sendo was there demonstrating it running on their Z100 device. The Z100, which has already been through a couple of industrial design revisions, is looking better and better with each iteration. The release date (originally set for last Fall), keeps slipping though, and no firm release date has been announced. Still, the device should be available in the European market sometime this summer.

Fujitsu-Siemens


Fujitsu-Siemens was showing off their new Microsoft Pocket PC 2002-based PDA, The Pocket LOOX. The Pocket LOOX isn't the only device out there sporting Microsoft's latest OS, but it is definitely the fastest - it's the first to use the next-generation Intel XScale processor.

Until now, Pocket PC devices have been limited to the 206Mhz StrongARM used in devices like the Compaq iPAQ 3870 and the new 02 XDA. The XScale changes that, bringing the Pocket LOOX up to 300Mhz with comparable power consumption. Look for other Pocket PC vendors to announce XScale processors (ranging up to 400Mhz) within the next couple of months.

With scheduled availability in May, the LOOX will also be getting its own GSM/GPRS sleeve later this summer.

i-mode


The big news from the services side of things was the launch of Europe's first i-mode service, by German operator E-Plus. Operating on E-plus' GPRS network, the service is up and running immediately with multiple handsets available from NEC, Toshiba, and Trium.

i-mode offers subscribers e-mail access, enhanced messaging, i-appli (downloadable software), i-motion (video clip distribution service), mobile Internet browsing, mobile banking, and new gaming functions. English-language i-mode sites like CNN Mobile are already up and running. How quickly other content providers hop on board though, remains to be seen.

A little bit of Vegas


CeBIT felt a little bit like Vegas this year - with Motorola's scantily clad booth bunnies shakin' booty to disco music, game shows, performing magicians, exotic cars in every other booth, and contests o' plenty.

Indeed, it feels like the industry's turned a corner. Whether or not the industry's fortunes can be sustained remains to be seen. Of course, massive debt still plagues European operators, 3G is still a year away, Bluetooth is just barely getting off the ground, and MMS won't reach critical mass until well after 3G arrives. But the devices are in the pipeline, and some pretty cool technologies like i-mode are already out the door.

That's a good thing, since there wasn't much to shake booty about just six months ago.

When he's not checking out booth bunnies, Justin Ried covers mobile technology for TheFeature.