NTT DoCoMo has announced the long-awaited launch of a new generation of cellular telephones with support for the Java programming language, and provided details of launch content for the handsets. Initially the units will only be available in Japan, but should move to Europe when DoCoMo’s I-mode service launches in September.
The handsets support a new service, available through DoCoMo's I-mode service, called I-Appli, which allows customers to download and run small Java applets. From January 26 two handsets and a total of 38 applets from a variety of content providers will be available, Takeshi Natsuno, executive director of the gateway business department at NTT DoCoMo announced at a Tokyo news conference.
The applets available at launch span the range from information to entertainment and games although, if I-mode is anything to go by, the launch menu may bear little resemblance to future offerings. When DoCoMo launched I-mode in February 1999 it emphasized the ability to check news headlines and conduct stock trades on the move, although as the service has developed entertainment-based content has clearly risen to the top as the most popular service.
I-Appli services at launch include animated clocks featuring Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty characters, stock charting and ticker applications, karaoke, a mapping service and games such as Tetris, Space Invaders and Pac-Man. The applets fall into one of two categories: the stand-alone type which resides in memory, such as a game, and the agent type which needs to connect to a server to provide updated information, such as a stock ticker.
All of the applets are 10K bytes in size or less and each telephone supporting the service will be able to store at least five downloaded applets in memory. Eyeing their use in financial and business applications, the I-Appli service and new handsets also include support for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption.
At launch two handsets will be available, the F503i from Fujitsu Ltd. and the P503i from Matsushita, better known by its Panasonic brand name. The F503i measures 135-x-46-x-15mm, weighs 77 grams and has a battery life of 430 hours on standby and continuous talk time of 135 minutes. The P503i has dimensions of 128-x-45-x-17mm, weighs 74 grams and offers a standby battery life of 400 hours and continuous talk time of 140 minutes.
Handsets from other manufacturers are expected to appear in the near future. At the Telecom Asia exhibition in Hong Kong in November 2000, NTT DoCoMo was demonstrating the S503i handset from Sony, although a spokeswoman for the operator was unable to provide launch details for the handset.