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Nokia’s E series gets a makeover

The Finnish giant Nokia put an emphasis on mobile devices for business users, including new additions to the E series, at its annual 3GSM press event Monday.

The company launched the E61i, a slimmer version of its predecessor, with improved email capability, as well as the E90, the latest update of the legendary Communicator. In addition, Nokia unveiled the new E65, a slider phone with a slim profile that is intended for leisure as well as the workplace. The original E Series, released last year, has so far sold more than two million handsets, the company said.

On the systems side, Nokia announced the latest version of its Intellisync mobileware which again is a pitch for the business market.

Elsewhere in its announcement, Nokia unveiled a new mobile TV-oriented phone, dubbed the N77, that is intended to drive the take-up of DVB-H market. Nokia predicts the mobile TV market will reach between five and ten million handsets globally by the end of 2008 and around 20 million handsets by end-2009.

Interestingly, the company also gave relative prominence to location-based services, which to date has been considered something of a damp squib in the mobile industry. Nokia believes location services have serious potential and consequently has announced its first mass market navigation-enabled phone, the 6110 Navigator.

Whether the individual theme is business, TV or location services, the underlying direction for the industry is convergence, said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia’s president and CEO. The transition, he said, is from “single-purpose to converged devices”.

Converged devices contributed 80 million of sales last year across the industry, a number set to grow to 250 million in 2008, Kallasvuo said. Single-purpose casualties included the PDA, a segment in which sales have now been in decline for the last three years. It’s onwards and upwards for the new segment apparently.”We expect the installed base of converged devices to exceed that of laptops this year,” he said.

Converged devices are of course a major part of the replacement market that contributes the majority of the industry’s sales, said Kallasvuo. In fact, 60 per cent of global sales last year were replacement purchases, he said. And they will no doubt play a major role in the ten per cent growth in global phone sales predicted by Kallasvuo for this year.

Among the launches that will contribute to this year’s figures will be the new business-oriented devices announced yesterday. The E65 is available today in selected markets but will become widespread during the first quarter. Meanwhile, the E61i is scheduled for second-quarter availability with the latest E90 Communicator appearing in volume during the following quarter. An emphasis on the business market means Nokia is squaring up to RIM’s BlackBerry rather than its newest threat, the Apple iPhone.

Nokia made no announcement that appeared to reflect a change of strategy in the wake of its new adversary. In fact although internet connectivity played a part in Nokia’s announcement yesterday, mobile music did not rate a single mention.

Asked about his reaction to the Apple iPhone, Kallasvuo replied that he welcomed Apple’s entry into the mobile phone market as proof of the Nokia theory that the industry is moving towards multi-purpose devices. Mind you, the functions on the iPhone are “commonplace” on Nokia phones, he asserted. The proving point will be whether the newcomer can “turn mindshare into marketshare”, Kallasvuo said.

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