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Nokia Banks On Cellular Transactions

Financial-services joint venture that includes the mobile-phone maker unveils its first product, but is anyone buying?

Financial-services software vendor Meridea Financial Software Oy on Thursday unveiled its first product, which allows E-banking over Nokia 7650 mobile phones. The Finnish phone company has teamed up with American consulting firm Accenture, Finnish financial group Sampo, and British venture-capital firm 3i in the effort, forming a new company, Meridea, that will be based in Finland and will market its products worldwide.

But will anyone be buying? Not just yet, Gomez Advisors analyst Chris Musto says. "It's an application ahead of the demand," he says. "When we poll those people who use Internet banking the most about their interest in wireless banking, they're just not interested."

Musto says Nokia is really banking on the software being the first step to other more lucrative areas. "Nokia is thinking about wireless in terms of what else it can provide," he says. Web-banking software could evolve to run point-of-sale transactions, where consumers can use cell phones for anything from paying for a soda out of a vending machine to buying a shirt in a store.

And even if not many consumers are interested, Musto says wireless services appeal to banks as a way to extend their relationships with customers. "It's a way for the financial institutions to keep in close contact with their most valuable customers," Yankee Group analyst Adam Zawel says. "By using a wireless device, any enterprise can develop a deeper relationship with their customer by being in constant contact."

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