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Nokia goes beyond handsets, eyes services

The Finnish phone maker shifts focus to areas it identifies as "killer apps" for the mobile platform in 2006.

SINGAPORE--No longer contended to be known as a maker of fashionable cell phones, Nokia has now set its sights on becoming a provider of software and services for the mobile platform.

Rajeev Suri, senior vice president of networks, Nokia Asia-Pacific, said: "We're not anymore a company that sells boxes but rather, [one] that sells services."

"I'm bullish about Internet browsing which I think will be the killer app for 2006."
-- Mauro Montanaro
Nokia Southeast Asia-Pacific

Senior executives from the Finnish mobile equipment maker gathered Wednesday to provide a business update, identifying key focus areas for 2006.

One of the growth areas is push or mobile e-mail, a market that Research In Motion (RIM) currently has a firm grip on with its BlackBerry device.

Mathia Nalappan, vice president of enterprise solutions, Nokia Asia-Pacific, predicts there will be a significant uptake of push e-mail among businesses this year.

And Nokia, he said, will be looking to drive enterprise mobile e-mail deployment in the first half of 2006. The company's US$430 million deal to buy Intellisync underscores Nokia's commitment in this market segment, he added.

Scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2006, the acquisition will provide the technology and tools necessary for Nokia to deliver a secure mobile e-mail system that can be seamlessly integrated with the backend infrastructure, Nalappan said.

"[The Intellisync deal] puts us two to three years ahead in the market," he said.

And the timing could not have been better, especially since RIM is currently battling a patent dispute which could bring its BlackBerry service in the United States to a halt.

Nalappan, however, said that while this could present "wider opportunities [for Nokia] to convert customers", he added that there is enough in the pie for more than one player.

"This is potentially a 640 million-user market and so far, it's pulled in only 10 million users… That's a huge untapped market," he said, noting that Nokia offers platform support for third-party e-mail software clients including BlackBerry, Seven and Visto.

According to Nalappan, Nokia is running pilot trials with 16 customers--ranging from medium to large enterprises--in Singapore and Australia on the Nokia Business Center push e-mail software. Launched in November last year, the Java-based tool has been implemented by 80 corporate customers worldwide, he said.

Browsing into mobility
Nokia is also betting that mobile Web browsers will take off in a big way, singling out this technology as another primary focus area for the company this year.

Mauro Montanaro, vice president of customer and market operations, Nokia Southeast Asia-Pacific, said: "I'm bullish about Internet browsing which I think will be the killer app for 2006."

And he wants Nokia to be part of this upsurge with the company's new mobile Web browser MiniMap, which was first unveiled in November last year.

The software allows users to zoom into sections on a Web page, bypassing the need to fit the entire page on the screen. It supports dynamic HTML and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, and is touted by Nokia as a new way of surfing the Web using the mobile phone.

Nokia will begin offering the software in a couple of new handsets slated for launch later this quarter including the N80, and intends to make MiniMap available in future mobile phone releases.

With the commercial launch of MiniMap, Nokia will join a small group of vendors that currently offer Web browsers designed specifically for the mobile platform such as Opera and MobiWeb.