The Nokia 9000 Communicator is an Intel 386-based phone-computer that offers direct Web access without the need to connect to a phone socket, e-mail, fax send and receive facilities, hands-free phone calling, personal organiser functions and much more besides.
It looks like a chunky version of the popular Nokia 2110 phone. It is about twice as thick and an inch longer, and weighs about 50 per cent more. This is just about OK for an inside jacket pocket and no problem for a handbag or a briefcase.
Open the phone up, though, and you find a compact keyboard. The device's different functions are accessed by a single push on the dedicated buttons. Push the Internet button, for example, and you are offered choices of mail, WWW, telnet and terminal.
Using the Web sub-menu allows you to go straight to pages you have stored, pages you have recently accessed and bookmarks for important pages. The specially developed Web browser built into the Communicator produces clear, easy-to-read text on the small but wonderfully crisp screen. Graphics also display well, though only in black and white. A zoom function allows any part of the page, text or graphics, to be examined in detail.
The Communicator behaved rather poorly when accessing live pages. Given the flaky nature of the Web, this could be down to Vodafone, Pipex, Nokia or just plain normal Web headaches. The maximum speed of communications over GSM networks, however, is only 9600 baud, so downloads are likely to be a little slow.
The Communicator comes with a serial connector and software that allows users to back up data and download material. It also has an infra-red port to transfer data to a printer or another computer and can operate as a fax modem when attached to a computer. That means you can use your standard Web browser on your notebook computer, using the Communicator as a plug-in modem.
Finally, the Communicator comes with built-in Web-authoring software. The main reason for this, says Nokia, is the increasing importance of Intranet applications where companies use Web-like pages for internal communications.
The Communicator has all sorts of bells and whistles such as a calendar, to-do list, notepad, alarm (so you can use it as a travel alarm clock); it will even allow you to create your own telephone ringing tones. All this for pounds 1,350, recommended - pounds 800 to pounds 1,000 on the street. Let's just hope it works.