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CTIA: Nokia Diving Into Mobile Content

The mobile phone maker is teaming with the creator of NBC's Heroes to launch a multiplatform, interactive project involving geotagging, social networking, and user-generated content.

The world's largest cell phone manufacturer said it knows it won't be able to maintain its market leadership by simply focusing on hardware, and it's bolstering its software to offer a more immersive experience driven by location and Internet-based services.

Part of Nokia's efforts will be realized through applications, and the company is readying its own virtual store to compete with Apple's App Store, the Android Market, and Research In Motion's just-launched BlackBerry App World. Nokia wants to differentiate its wares by including location data and social networking aspects. For example, if a user agrees to the presence tracked, the store will recognize where they are and dynamically present apps that would have relevance to that location.

But the company has larger ambitions than just being an app distributor. It wants to leverage the capabilities of a mobile phone to provide a new and compelling experience. Nokia is teaming with Tim Kring, creator of NBC's Heroes, to create a multiplatform, interactive storytelling project code-named TEVA.

Kring is intentionally vague about what the project will be, as he believes holding back some elements will add to the narrative. The project will be rolled out regionally this summer and likely will involve geotagging, social networking, user-generated content, and professionally made videos.

"It's a very real-world idea," said Kring. "We are trying to invent a new genre here."

Users may have gotten a taste of what will be involved with TEVA. Nokia released a beta program that uses recognition software to make a phone's camera bring up relevant information on real-life objects. For example, if a user pointed a camera at a movie poster, the Point & Find program would use Internet connectivity, image processing, and location data to bring up content such as a movie trailer, or directions to the nearest theater.

The Point & Find software is an open platform that Nokia hopes other developers, advertisers, and content makers will exploit. It's available for download from Nokia's Web site for select handsets such as the N95.

The cell phone manufacturing giant said this new generation of mobile content will be best used if developers integrate location data. The company said a platform built with users' location information, mobile Internet connectivity, and rich applications can lead to a "virtual world" that ties into the user's real life and enhances the mobile experience.

"That's why we spent $8 billion on Navteq," said Anssi Vanjaki, executive VP of markets, at a roundtable discussion. "It wasn't just to provide maps or directions. Imagine 1 billion mobile phones contributing their location, and then what types of databases and services can be derived from that."

The company's vision of this next generation of mobile software probably will not be achieved until the next generation of wireless broadband is rolled out, and data prices go down. Nokia said it can see Long Term Evolution networks blanketing most of the major regions by 2015, and predicts a new era of how customers interact with and use their cell phones. Because the majority of wireless carriers are backing LTE for 4G networks, some Nokia members don't give WiMax much of a chance.

"WiMax is going to wind up like Betamax," Vanjaki said.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around setting business priorities for next-gen Web applications. Download the report here (registration required).

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