Convergence Options for End Users Almost Too Many to Count

Carl Weinschenk

The emerging era of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) and potent new applications is dawning in big and small ways. There are dramatic new devices -- such as the BlackBerry 8820, which was introduced this week -- and more subtle infrastructure advances that provide many of the same new capabilities.


The 8820, described here at Wi-Fi Networking News, seems to have just about everything. It supports both Wi-Fi (802.11a, b and g) and cellular (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution, or EDGE). It toggles between the two using unlicensed mobile access (UMA) and provides several layers of security, including Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), WPA2 and IP Security (IPSec). Other features are mentioned in the story. The device has a full QWERTY keyboard. The phone, like the Apple iPhone, to which it invariably will be compared, will be launched on AT&T's network this summer.


Apple would want the common wisdom to be that the introduction of the iPhone is the extent of the new devices hitting the market. The reality is, however, the vast expansion of network capacity and on-board chip integration has ushered in an era of growth for mobile devices. In addition to new user features that naturally will emerge under these conditions, the devices will be characterized by the ability to hop between networks, use the mobile Internet, and operate with greater security.


In this new era, functions will be combined in a number of ways. This week, for instance, Avaya and Nokia announced a platform combining the former's IP-based applications with the mobile device maker's business-oriented Eseries phones. The Avaya one-X Mobile Dual Mode is a fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) approach in which calls will be delivered to workers' desk or Eseries phone (the Nokia E60, E61 or E70).


The complexity and potency of these networks is an issue with which vendors and service providers must deal. In late May, Palm took a step in this direction with the Foleo Mobile Companion. This is an accessory to a smartphone that features a large screen and a full-size keyboard. The idea is simple: Smartphones essentially are computers. Providing a more robust user interface, which syncs with the smartphone automatically, will enable users to take advantage of that power. The Foleos are overtly designed to work with the Palm Treos. The company says they should be able to work "with little or no modification" with devices from RIM, Apple and Symbian.


Advances are also happening at the software level. This week, Intel launched the Moblin project, which says includes a lot of different elements. Intel is creating a Linux kernel, a framework for a user interface, a browser, a multimedia framework, embedded Linux image creation tools and other features.


The unleashing of such power in the mobile sector is being felt at many of these interrelated levels. The bottom line, however, is the same across the entire industry: The capabilities available to end users are inexorably growing.

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