Nokia’s hat trick: unveils N97, acquires Symbian and outlines future of internet

2 Dec 2008

The world’s No 1 operator, Nokia, had a very busy day today, what with acquiring the Symbian operating system, unveiling its social media-oriented N97 and outlining its vision for the future of the internet.

A descendant of Psion’s EPOC operating system, Symbian was originally a partnership established in 1998 between Nokia, Motorola and Psion to exploit the convergence between mobile phones and PDAs.

The shareholding was split between Nokia, which held 56pc, Ericsson holding around 16pc, Sony Ericsson with 13pc, Panasonic with 10.5pc and Samsung with under 5pc. However, last June Nokia revealed its intention to acquire all shares it did not own in Symbian for €264m.

Today, the company said that 99.9pc of outstanding shares have been bought. “The closing of the offer is a fundamental step in the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, announced on June 24, 2008 by Nokia, together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, NTT DOCOMO, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, ST-NXP Wireless, Texas Instruments and Vodafone,” Nokia said.

At a major Nokia world pow-wow in Barcelona, Nokia made a big play on its Ovi internet vision, outlining a range of mapping and messaging services, as well as how social location tools will drive future services.

“Today, we are at the threshold of another profound change in the way we connect and interact with each other and with our world,” said Nokia CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

“We are, in fact, transforming the internet: putting in your hands the power to be more in tune with the world around you.

“This is a world where you will have the power to tailor and personalise your internet how and when you like, and to make your day-to-day life easier and more fulfilling.”

Kallasvuo noted that Nokia, with more than one billion customers globally, has the opportunity to put the power of the internet into the hands of more people in more places than any other company, “and that’s what we intend to do”.

He said that Nokia’s global scope, assets such as NAVTEQ and a growing list of Ovi services “uniquely position Nokia to transform the internet to become a more personal and relevant part of our lives. And that’s a claim no legacy internet company can make.”

Among the services being introduced are Nokia Maps, which the company intends will become a destination for people to save and organise places, pre-plan trips and post-edit them, and Mail on Ovi, which Kallasvuo said will bring email to the masses.

He observed that some 75pc of the world’s population has not yet used email. Many of these people’s first email experience will be on a mobile phone, not on a PC, he said.

The centre-piece of Nokia’s news today is the launch of the N97, which has been designed for the needs of internet-savvy consumers. The device combines a large 3.5-inch touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard, providing an ‘always-open’ window to favourite social-networking sites and internet destinations.

The new device includes multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds, allowing people to create a personal internet and share their ‘social location’.

“From the desktop to the laptop, and now to your pocket, the Nokia N97 is the most powerful, multi-sensory mobile computer in existence,” said Jonas Geust, vice-president of Nokia Nseries.

“Together with the Ovi services announced today, the Nokia N97 mobile computer adjusts to the world around us, helping us stay connected to the people and things that matter most. With the Nokia N97, Nseries leads the charge in helping to transform the internet into your internet.”

The Nokia N97 introduces the concept of ‘social location’. With integrated A-GPS sensors and an electronic compass, the Nokia N97 mobile computer intuitively understands where it is. The Nokia N97 makes it easy to update social networks automatically with real-time information, giving approved friends the ability to update their ‘status’ and share their ‘social location’, as well as related pictures or videos.

The home screen of the Nokia N97 mobile computer features the people, content and media that matter the most. Friends, social networks and news are available by simply touching the home screen. The 16:9 widescreen display can be fully personalised, with frequently updated widgets of favourite web services and social-networking sites.

The Nokia N97 is also perfectly suited for browsing the web, streaming Flash videos or playing games. Both the physical QWERTY and virtual touch input ensure efficiency in blogging, chatting, posting, sending texts or emailing.

The Nokia N97 supports up to 48 GB of storage, including 32 GB of on-board memory, expandable with a 16 GB micro SD card for music, media and more. This is complemented by excellent music capabilities, full support for the Nokia Music Store and a continuous playback time of up to 1.5 days.

The Nokia N97 also has a 5-megapixel camera with high-quality Carl Zeiss optics, 16:9 and DVD quality video capture, and support for services like Share on Ovi for immediate sharing over HSDPA and WLAN.

The Nokia N97 is expected to begin shipping in the first half of 2009 at an estimated retail price of €550 before taxes.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: the Nokia N97, designed with the needs of internet-savvy consumers in imind

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years