Multiple choice in Nokia’s next assault

5 Apr 2005

Nokia plans to launch 40 new mobile devices in 2005 as it pursues a long-standing ambition to secure a 40pc share of the global handset market.

Despite increased competition from other manufacturers, prompting Gartner’s recent warning that Nokia needs to regain the initiative in terms of brand and technology leadership, Ireland’s general manager Conor Pierce believes the firm could build on its 33pc market share and increase it dominance of the sector.

Speaking at a Dublin briefing this week, Pierce unveiled a range of handsets that span what Nokia considers to be the three core segments: multimedia, mass market and enterprise. Mass-market 3G devices were singled out for special attention. “The ultimate payback comes here for the operators,” said Pierce, who talked of a continuing drive among networks to secure non-voice revenues that 3G services can deliver. He said that a quarter of its new models would be 3G phones but was unwilling to comment on suggestions that Ireland’s first 3G network, rolled out by Vodafone, was still glitchy and an uncertain environment for its products.

The latest 3G handsets are the 6680/6681 that feature two integrated 1.3 megapixel cameras (one facing the user for video calling) with a flash and a slide feature for lens protection. The 6681 also incorporates EDGE technology for faster web browsing and a removable 64 MB MultiMediaCard (MMC) with a new ‘hot swap’ function for switching cards. Both models feature a higher resolution display of up to 262,144 colours.

More mainstream is the 2.5G 6101, Nokia’s first attempt at a mass-market flip phone that borrows heavily from classic Motorola designs that have become integral to every mobile operator’s product range. The handset also introduces Xpress audio, a new feature that enables users to record and send voice messages.

In the business sector, a number of new smart phones were spearheaded by the latest incarnation of its foldout QWERTY keyboard device, the 9500. Armed with integrated wireless local area network 802.11b and EDGE, it has 80MB, which can be increased to 2GB with an optional MMC card. Its more compact cousin, the 9300, packs fewer features but its sleeker beige styling is clearly aimed at attracting users put off by the heavyweight 9500.

Nokia’s attempt to extend further into the enterprise space has been signposted by a series of development deals with a number of IT companies, but the most recent and most surprising was the agreement to incorporate ActiveSync into its phones. The software of its erstwhile enemy, Microsoft, is used to synchronise mobile devices with a desktop PC. While the first fruits of this partnership are yet to materialise some of the current range already feature Windows Media Player an even BlackBerry’s Connect email package, suggesting that the world’s leading handset manufacturer knows that it can no longer go it alone in an increasingly complex multimedia market.

By Ian Campbell