Nokia unveils plans for new music phones, mini-laptop in coming months

By Peter Zschunke, AP
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nokia plans more phones, netbook

STUTTGART, Germany — Nokia Corp., the world’s biggest maker of cell phones, unveiled new models Wednesday that boast more music features and mesh better with Facebook and the Finnish company’s upcoming netbook.


The announcements are part of Nokia’s attempt to branch out into new markets, such as wireless online services.

“We are not on the defensive, we are on the offensive,” Nokia executive vice president Anssi Vanjoki said at the two-day Nokia World event in Germany.

The Espoo, Finland-based company said it made a deal with Facebook, the wildly popular social networking site, that will let users of some its handsets update their location and status directly to the site through a Nokia Ovi account.

The feature will premier on the new N97 mini phone that was also introduced Wednesday and will retail for €450 ($644.13) without a contract when it starts shipping in October.

“People want to bring their physical and online worlds together via the Internet. The Nokia N97 mini is designed for this new social Internet and to help navigate people and places,” said Jonas Guest, vice president of Nokia Nseries.

Nokia has been the top handset maker since 1998 but has gradually expanded to include online services, such as downloads of music, games, maps and the fast transfer of photos and video, especially as markets have become saturated.

It has estimated that the global online market will reach €100 billion by 2010.

Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said his company’s cooperation with former rival Microsoft, and entering deals like the one with Facebook, heralds a new strategy.

“Strategy changes the whole time,” he said in an interview with Finnish broadcaster YLE. “It mustn’t be something we can’t touch as the environment changes, the competition changes.”

Nokia offered more details about its new laptop, dubbed the Nokia Booklet 3G, which will ship in the fourth quarter of 2009 with Windows 7 and retail for €575.

In contrast, many new netbooks by Asus, Lenovo and Dell are often priced around €350 or less.

However, Nokia expects the Booklet 3G to be distributed by cell phone providers, many of whom will likely offer it for a much lower prices in concert with a two-year contract that includes monthly fees for Internet access using cell phone networks.

Nokia said it was already in talks about such an arrangement in Germany with mobile network operator 02.

Made of aluminum, it sports a 10-inch (25-centimeter) screen, weighs 2.8 pounds (1.3 kilograms) and boasts an Intel Atom 1.6 ghz chip, along with a gigabyte of memory. It will have a third-generation hot swappable SIM card to access cellular networks.

Unlike most netbooks, Nokia’s Booklet will have a built-in GPS navigation chip coupled to Nokia’s Ovi Maps software.

Nokia has previously tried to expand its portfolio beyond cell phones, making a “tablet” computer that runs non-Windows software. It hasn’t been a mainstream success.

Nokia also unveiled a pair of new music phones, the X6 and X3.

The X6 features 32 gigabytes of memory, can play up to 35 hours of music and has a 3.2-inch touch-screen. It will retail for €450.

The X3 is a more compact version that features direct access to Nokia’s music store and features a built-in FM radio and 3.2 megapixel camera. It has a suggested retail price of €115. Both devices are set to ship during the fourth quarter of 2009.

Nokia stock remained almost unchanged in Helsinki, closing at €9.35.

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