The Cell Phone As Handheld Miracle

A new software standard will bring startling capabilities

The London-Paris train emerges from the Chunnel into daylight. As if on cue, scores of executives reach for their cellular phones and get back to work. Although Europe lags behind the U.S. in much of the digital realm, it's far ahead in digital cellular telephony. Practically all Europeans are hooked to the same digital system, known as GSM, which sounds clearer and travels better than old-style analog technology. It also can shuttle data to and from the rest of the digital world, including the Internet. Betting on this common technology early this decade was what pushed Sweden's L.M. Ericsson and Finland's Nokia Corp. to fabulous growth in mobile phones. Meanwhile, Motorola Inc.'s gamble on analog cell phones led the U.S. standard-bearer into its late-1990s slump.

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