Muslim-centric Mobile
By Elizabeth Esfahani

(Business 2.0) – The Middle East is becoming one of the planet's most fertile mobile-phone markets. By 2008 the number of wireless subscribers in the area is expected to swell to 110 million, up from 44 million in 2004. So it's easy to understand why Ilkone Mobile Telecommunication, a startup based in the United Arab Emirates, has spent two years and $8.5 million designing a cell phone to meet the daily prayer needs of the region's more than 300 million Muslims. Its $350 Ilkone i800 comes loaded with the text of the Koran in both Arabic and English, a "quibla finder" that detects the direction of Mecca from more than 5,000 spots, and Arabic-lettered keys for text messaging.

Since its launch in June 2004, the i800 has sold roughly 100,000 units, and this month it will debut in Detroit and several European cities--an expansion Ilkone hopes will swell sales to 1 million by year's end. And that's just scratching the surface, since the startup has yet to move into heavily Islamic nations such as India and Pakistan. Next year Ilkone plans to unveil two new phones with more functions, including cameras and checklists for those on pilgrimages to Mecca. -- ELIZABETH ESFAHANI