Nokia's Ovi Opens Door To Music, Internet Services

The platform is a rebundling of Nokia services such as its N-Gage games and its Nokia Music store that sync up with existing social networks, communities, and content.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

August 29, 2007

4 Min Read

Nokia on Wednesday unleashed a bevy of new products and services it hopes will secure its sales lead in the mobile marketplace, including the introduction of a new Internet service platform called Ovi.

The cell phone maker also rolled out new devices as well as subscription music and gaming services to back the endeavor. Finnish for "door," Ovi is the bundling of Nokia services such as its N-Gage games and its Nokia Music store. The company said its customers would be able to better access their existing social networks, communities, and content as a result of the bundled services.

"Over the coming 12 months, you will see us integrate new user interface elements, service suites, and Web communities to Ovi," Nokia chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said during a company-sponsored event in London.

With the resounding success of Apple's iTunes music store playing in the background, Nokia Wednesday promised its Nokia Music store will be available this fall in key European markets -- just in time to meet Apple's planned European iPhone launch.

Conspicuous by its absence in Nokia's announcement was the lack of a mention of the Nokia Music Store, or of its companion N-Gage gaming service, for North American markets. The mobile phone provider said its music store will open "across key European markets this fall with additional stores in Europe and Asia opening over the coming months."

However, North America wasn't entirely eclipsed in the announcement as Nokia unveiled a new Nokia N95 multimedia computer with high-speed HSDPA access. Carrying a suggested $699 price tag, the mobile device will be available next month at independent retailers in major U.S. markets as well as at Nokia Flagship Stores in New York and Chicago.

Nokia said its music store subscribers will be able to use their desktop computers and some "optimized" Nokia devices to download music. Songs can be purchased via PCs and then transferred to compatible Nokia devices. The service will initially be available to users of the Nokia N81 and Nokia N95 8 Gbyte, both of which were included in the new handsets -- all expected to ship in the fourth quarter -- that were announced in London.

The products and services are designed to keep Nokia's sales robust and its market share higher than its competitors. Earlier this month, market analysts with Gartner reported Nokia's market share increased from last year's 33.7% to 36.9%. The company shipped nearly 100 million phones in the latest quarter. Gartner's mobile devices research director Carolina Milanesi said Nokia's market share is likely to continue to increase at the expense of Motorola. The N81 and N81 8Gbyte have dedicated music and gaming keys to go along with 3G and WLAN connectivity. The device is configured for easy purchasing, managing and playing of Nokia Music Store songs and N-Gage games. The Nokia N95 8 Gbyte features a 5 megapixel camera along with GPS, WLAN, HSDPA and two-slide capability. The N95 8 Gbyte holds up to 20 hours of video and 6,000 songs.

Also unveiled Wednesday were the Nokia 5310 Xpress Music phone and the Nokia 5610 Xpress Music phone. Both devices are music players and have digital cameras.

The Nokia Music Store typically delivers tracks in 192Kbps audio in Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, Nokia said, noted that a Nokia Music PC client to be available later this year will enable easy transfer of purchased songs.

"You can select from a huge range of music, including local music from your country, and download it directly to your Nokia device," said Tommi Mustonen, head of Nokia's music activities, in a statement. "You can choose between purchasing tracks a la carte via your Nokia device or computer, or you can stream an unlimited number of full length tracks to your computer."

Individual tracks will cost one Euro (about $1.37) and albums for 10 Euros ($13.66). A monthly subscription for PC steaming is listed at 10 Euros as well.

While Nokia made no mention of the music or gaming offerings for North American markets, there was speculation that Nokia will find a way to bring the offerings there in the future. A major hurdle is represented by U.S. mobile phone service providers, which have sometimes resisted third parties selling music and games over their networks.

As for the Nokia N95 for North American markets, Nokia said it will be available next month. The company said the computer's HSDPA technology will enable speeds of 384 kbps with WCDMA. The technology is eventually expected to be capable of reaching speeds of over 10 Mbps.

"On HSDPA networks, browsing the Internet, reading e-mail, streaming video and downloading large files can be carried out up to 10 times faster than over EDGE," Nokia said.

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