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Nokia, IBM team on wireless e-commerce

Finnish Nokia, the giant mobile phone maker, says it will begin cooperation with computer giant IBM in building and promoting mobile Internet solutions.

IBM and Nokia, the world's biggest cell phone maker, today said they would join forces in an increasingly heated race to popularize e-commerce over wireless devices that connect to the Internet.

The alliance comes at a time when online players are battling to bring their services to wireless devices such as cell phones. Just last week, Amazon said its customers will be able to purchase items from any of its online stores using 3Com's new Palm VII handheld wireless device. And last month, DLJdirect became one of the few online brokers to let investors trade stocks using cellular phones. Internet giant America Online dubs its major strategic initiative "AOL Anywhere" as it tries to push its presence beyond personal computers to portable devices.

At the same time, makers of mobile devices are cranking up efforts to meet the needs of e-commerce and Internet firms who are trying to bring their services to people without the use of personal computers and modems. Less than a month ago, Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson--a Nokia and Motorola rival--released the world's smallest cell phones able to access the Web.

IBM and Nokia said they would work together to develop enterprise Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) solutions that would allow customers to extend their e-businesses beyond the personal computer to a variety of mobile devices.

WAP is a new communication standard that allows wireless phones to connect directly to the Internet. The technology is designed to try to shrink Internet pages to fit on a handset screen.

"Imagine having the Internet in your pocket--which is incredibly empowering for businesses," said Pertti Lounamaa, vice president, Nokia wireless software solutions, in a statement. "No longer must people be tethered to a PC to access the Internet. With a WAP-enabled mobile device, people will have a simpler, easier, and more flexible way to access the Internet."

Under the terms of the agreement, IBM will market and distribute the Nokia WAP Server software on its PC servers and license Nokia core WAP technology for integration with other IBM server platforms.

"If you want to be able to use a mobile phone instead of your PC to access information and services on the Internet, WAP is the key ingredient that will make this possible," Mark Bregman, general manager of IBM's pervasive computing division, said in a statement. "Combining Nokia's leadership in the wireless space with our expertise in the enterprise, IBM will be able to quickly provide an expanded range of compelling data offerings for the mobile Internet."

The Nokia WAP Server software will be available on IBM's NetFinity servers running Microsoft's Windows NT operating system toward the end of the year.

IBM said it also plans to combine Nokia WAP technology with its pervasive computing middleware which will help its clients further extend their e-business reach.