BEIJING, Aug. 30 (24hoursnews)-- Nokia on Wednesday launched a series of Web services under the brand name Ovi that allows users of its phones to download games, maps and music directly to their cell phones.
The Finnish Mobile phone maker's new Music Store is in direct competition with Apple's iTunes offering. Although Apple's iTunes is less expensive, Nokia's service is a huge step forward in accessibility.
IPhone users have to download songs to their computers, but Nokia's Ovi users can download songs directly to their phones. Ovi will be available in Europe in the fourth quarter of 2007, but at the present there is no timetable for entering the United States.
The company has struck deals with the world's four biggest music labels, Universal Music, Warner Music Group, EMI and Sony BMG, and some of the largest game makers, including Electronic Arts and Gameloft for its game store, N-Gage.
"The services unit will, in terms of sales, be extremely small in the beginning," said Nokia spokesman Kari Tuutti. "But that's really the future we see for Nokia, to be able to develop our business around offering services to people."
Tuutti said there are already more than 900 million people in the world with a Nokia mobile phone in their pocket, who he expects to replace with an Ovi-enabled phone in the next two years. Customers can't download Ovi to their current Nseries phones, they have to upgrade to the new models being launched this autumn.
Nokia is launching worldwide the 350 euro (476 U.S. dollars) N81, and a larger capacity version of its N95, with 8 gigabytes, for 550 euros (748 dollars) in October. Later in the year there will be some lower-priced models with the Ovi software, including the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic, for 325 euros (442 dollars), and the Nokia 5610 XpressMusic for 300 euros (408 dollars). Nokia is hoping that other rival phone makers will want to use its Ovi software, but it's doubtful they will at first.
The first Nseries handset with the capability to access Ovi, Finnish for "door," will be the N81, a slider phone that comes with 8GB of memory. The device has been slightly optimized for gaming, with thumb buttons on either side of the phone's face, a bit like a PSP or Nintendo DS, so users can play games with two hands instead of one thumb. It also comes with a navi-scroller that is touch sensitive, similar to an iPod scroll wheel.
August 29, 2007 - The N-Gage is reborn. No longer a specific physical device but an online service, the new N-Gage is set to launch worldwide in November. Users with compatible N-series devices can download the N-Gage application directly to their handsets while all future N-series handsets coming out of assembly will have the service already onboard.
The new N-Gage, revealed at E3 in 2006, is something of a smart hub, a destination where gamers and community members log in to check out games, download applications, and participate in events like challenges and contests. The service can be likened somewhat to Xbox Live, giving users a central place to download games and demos, engage other players, and check out community features.
The new N-Gage is actually part of a new mobile strategy from Nokia called Ovi (Finnish for "door"). The Ovia mantle not only contains N-Gage, but also a new music store and a map service. Nokia Music Store and Nokia Maps are just the second batch of applications announced for the Ovi service beyond N-Gage. Nokia will add additional functionality to Ovi over time.
Nokia has announced several high-profile partnerships for the new N-Gage in recent months, such as Capcom, Digital Chocolate, and I-play. At a London event today, Nokia showed off a spate of new games, including Snakes Subsonic. Games are currently priced in the $8-$15 range.
The N-Gage service is compatible with the N73, N81, N95 series, N93 series. Additional devices will be announced in the future.