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Phones to get Java for Net access

Northern Telecom will turn its PowerTouch phones into Net access devices with Java.

Northern Telecom is planning to remake its PowerTouch telephones into Internet access devices next year by building recently announced Java processors from Sun Microsystems into the phones.

The devices, now available as sophisticated business telephones, will get screens and Sun's new picoJava processors, which come embedded with the Java Virtual Machine for running Java applets. The Canadian telecommunications company hopes to start consumer trials of Java-based wireless products sometime next year.

Nortel will manufacture versions of the phone for the residential, business, and wireless markets.

The residential PowerTouch phones, priced from $200 to $300, will come with 4-inch-square ASCII display screens and use Java to display downloaded graphics such as maps and travel schedules. Callers will rely primarily on the phone keyboard to interact with the device.

"People aren't looking for a phone with a keyboard," said Nortel director of business development Chris Koehncke said. Koehncke added the devices would be used "to pull information down like stock quotes, travel information...not push it out. This is not a computer, it's not a Network Computer, it's not a PDA."

The business phones will plug into a desktop computer monitor, while the wireless devices will feature a smaller pen- and touch-sensitive screen, roughly 2 by 4 inches, as well as a small keypad. The wireless phones will sell for less than $1,000, according to the company. No prices were available for the business phones.

Although the company expects to add the ability to check email to the phones, consumers shouldn't expect too much Internet power from the phones alone.

While demonstration versions of the phones will show up this summer, the company hopes to start consumer trials of the Internet-enabled products in the first half of 1997 with general availability scheduled for the second half.

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