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Ericsson Australia Invests in Web-Telephone Convergence

Telecommunications vendor Ericsson Australia has partnered with Sydney-based Internet Protocol (IP) company i on australia to bring the Internet to the common telephone handset.

Ericsson has made what it terms "a significant financial investment" in the partnership to develop and market IP solutions to Australian users. The first product in this suite of solutions will be the Ericsson iPhone, which is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of this year.

The iPhone aims to be the next generation of the technology first seen in Australia with the Cidco iPhone, that currently retails through Australian mobile phone dealer Strathfield Car Radios.

According to i on australia director Giora Friede, the Ericsson version will be developed and marketed explicitly to serve the needs of home and small business consumers.

"It will combine the convenience of a phone with the power of the Internet," said Ericsson Australia general manager business development, Leo Silver. "Our objective is to bring the Internet into the home via a low-cost, simple-to-use device."

Friede said that this focus had driven the iPhone's development, with the goal to alter the public perception that the Internet is still something of an elite tool and to meet accessibility demands as people rely more on the Internet.

"We want to reduce the intimidation factor of computers and the Internet, and make the Internet available to more people as the iPhone is cheaper than a PC," explained Friede.

The iPhone itself is a speaker phone with answering machine that offers full access to e-mail, the Internet, and other online information such as news, weather, and travel reservations. It will have a built-in browser, a 56.6K modem, a keyboard, and a 640 x 480 LCD touch screen interface.

Other specific information, such as whether the iPhone will have the capacity to download information or if users will have a choice of Internet browsers, is to be released by i on australia and Ericsson in the next month.

While Ericsson is providing the hardware for the iPhone, i on australia has licensed and developed the network centric technology that will drive it, and will be constantly upgrading its software, said Friede.

Although the companies are hesitant about applying prices for the iPhone yet as they will be influenced by retailers, Friede looked to place it in the range of the Cidco iPhone, which retails for around AUS$700 (US$ 458).