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23 June, 1997

Extends Network Computer Profile's Strengths to Wireless World

TOKYO -- June 23, 1997 . . . Several of the world's top computer hardware and software makers today announced a common set of standards for building mobile network computers, a new class of devices that range from "smart" cellular phones to lightweight, hand-held mobile devices with easy access to the Internet or corporate networks.

Apple Computer Co., Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, Lotus Development Corp., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., Nokia Mobile Phones, Oracle's Network Computer Inc. (NCI), Sun Microsystems and Toshiba, announced standards that will determine how mobile computer screens should look, how much power they need, the method of linking them with networks and the types of peripheral devices that they support.

Unlike desktop computers, mobile devices will operate with networks at various connection speeds. They will also be used in a "disconnected" mode, such as when an airline passenger answers e-mail during a flight, but needs to connect the device to a land-based network to send the e-mail after the flight has landed.

The Mobile Network Computer Reference Specification (MNCRS) is actually an extension of the Network Computer Reference Profile, an earlier blueprint of Java*-based standards agreed upon by a number of industry leaders in May 1996 and adopted by The Open Group, a non-profit standards body, as a consensus industry standard. This blueprint laid out a common set of hardware and software guidelines that many companies see as the foundation for the growing network computer market. While agreeing to common standards, the specification allows enough flexibility for companies to differentiate their products.

The sponsoring companies expect this latest set of guidelines to have a similarly important effect on the emerging mobile NC market. The new specification, which will continue to evolve, builds upon the NC Reference Profile's strengths by addressing the issues of security, availability, performance, total cost of ownership and the way that mobile devices "talk to" existing and future products and services -- a concept called "interoperability."
The sponsors intend to submit the specification to The Open Group for formal adoption to promote market acceptance by means of a branding and certification program.

Also endorsing the Mobile NC specifications today were: Digital Equipment Corp., Funai Electric, Hugh Symons of the UK, Institute for Information Industry Taiwan, Japan Telecom Co., Matsushita Electric Industial Co., NEC, PeopleSoft, PSION, Secom Information of Tokyo, Telxon Inc.; Thomson CSF, and Tokyo Internet Corp.

The mobile NC specification was forged with today's mobile professional in mind who may have avoided using laptops in the past because of their cost, weight or complexity. Designed for a new class of device, serving as a "professional assistant," this mobile NC would support productivity applications written for the Java platform and offer function similar to a corporate network computer -- except the professional would be free to roam.

Professional assistants and similar mobile devices designated by the mobile NC specification would enable mobile Web browsing as well as access by mobile workers and business travellers to e-mail, personal productivity tools and database systems on the corporate network. In other words, the devices would be fully capable network computers with the added advantage of total mobility.

In announcing the Mobile Network Computer Reference Specification now, the companies -- Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, Lotus Development Corp., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Nokia Mobile Phones, Oracle's Network Computer Inc. (NCI), Sun Microsystems and Toshiba -- agreed to work together and others in the computer industry on additional technical areas. These include: methods to provide "seamless" connectivity between devices operating in "connected" and "disconnected" modes; network connection speeds, power management, and user identification; as well as security issues. The companies have formed work groups to deal with the evolving mobile NC standards and will share their technical findings on an ongoing basis with the computer industry.

Additional details of the Mobile NC specification include:

  • "SmartCard" technology standards of ISO 7816, EMV (Europay/MasterCard/Visa) specifications and the Open Card Framework.
  • World Wide Web standards for HTML (HyperText Markup Language version 3.2) and HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol version 1.0).
  • Support for teleconferencing of video, data or both.
  • Support for a wide variety of network attachments, such as LANs, WANs, wired or wireless connections
  • Device attachment options that could be used in connection with mobile devices would include Cardbus, Universal Serial Bus, serial and parallel ports and infrared capability as defined by the Infrared Data Association.
  • Communications protocols, including TCP/IP-based standards.

For additional details and the entire list of specifications, see

* Java is a trademark of Sun Microsystems, Inc. All other names or products are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Information in the press releases, including product prices and specifications, content of services and contact information, is current on the date of the press announcement,but is subject to change without prior notice.

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