Death of the Business Mobile Phone?

The business phone is dead—that's the message coming out of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona as a raft of industry players line up to show off products, software and services designed for individuals.

In the mobile sphere this is the age of customisable phones; identikit handsets designed merely to do a work job are looking increasingly endangered.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer repeated Redmond's message from last year: people want a device they can use for work and play. Ballmer was in Barcelona to announce the next iteration of the Windows Mobile OS—6.5—which has had a graphical makeover to make it more to consumers' tastes.

He said: "People don't want a phone for work and a phone for their personal life—they want a single phone that they can use to access all of the information and all of the people in their lives that are important. They want a phone that is connected and integrated with all of the other sources and places that they use information.

"At Microsoft our vision is to deliver one platform that extends across the PC, the phone, the TV and the web and connects us all to the information and people that we really care about."

Meanwhile at Nokia's press event, its president and CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, also took up this theme by debunking the myth that the 'E' in its E-Series of phones stands solely for 'Enterprise'.

He said: "In the past many believed that our E-Series is exclusively for enterprise. But that's simply not the case. Today E-Series stands for 'efficiency'."

Nokia's view is that people want to make efficient use of their personal time too—and with work and life increasingly intertwined that's getting ever more crucial.

The world's largest mobile maker announced the launch of the E55—a compact keyboard version of its popular E71 smart phone—and the E75, the newest incarnation of its communicator brand: a mini communicator. According to Nokia, more than 10 million E-Series devices shipped last year and Kallasvuo was keen to point out the E71 has been singled out for a variety of consumer gadget awards.

He continued: "Don't get me wrong, enterprise customers are still very important and we have been making great progress over the past year in refining our offer."

Elsewhere at Mobile World Congress consumer-oriented mobile makers continue to dine out on smartphone growth, with the likes of HTC, LG and Samsung all launching new devices. Sony Ericsson also previewed an iPhone rival device codenamed Idou—with a full touchscreen interface, its Walkman MP3 playing software and a 12.1MP camera.

The company revealed its thinking has shifted away from siloed products dedicated to being best in class in a single function, such as the camera, and is now leaning more towards a philosophy of enabling consumers to both communicate and be entertained on the one device.

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