On September 2-3, Nokia held its Nokia World conference -- the biggest annual event for the Finnish giant -- in Stuttgart, Germany. Several announcements were made, including forays into new business areas for the company: the launch of a connected mini-PC called Booklet 3G and the start of a promising financial service called Nokia Money (based on Obopay’s mobile payment platform). On the "handset" side, Nokia is focusing innovation on the successful smartphones market, and its Ovi platform is now open to developers.
Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia president and CEO, opened the event with a bunch of interesting figures on Nokia’s position in the mobile world: Nokia mobile users represent 1.1 billion (thousand million) people worldwide, and the company has 55 million Internet services users (using Ovi services, a business that generated April-June revenues of 140 million euros, according to Reuters).
Rumors of a Nokia/Facebook integration deal have been persistent since February 2009. The deal was announced in Stuttgart with the introduction of "lifecasting with Ovi."
"Since the last Nokia World, we have launched new services like Ovi Mail or Comes With Music that are already successful in 10 countries," said Kallasvuo in his opening speech. He also announced that in less than a year Nokia sold 10 million units of its touchscreen N97 and 5800 smartphones, and that N97s are selling at a faster rate than N95 phones did.
Smartphones and mobile computers are now key components of the company’s strategy, and Nokia World 2009 was a festival of news in those areas. This video provides a visual recap of the main announcements concerning the N97, N97 Mini and the N900 (the first Maemo/Linux smartphone from Nokia): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SsYsoTTXK8 .
The new Nokia Booklet 3G netbook
On the mobile PC side, the release of a netbook during the conference did not come as a complete surprise. During a keynote address, Nokia's executive vice president for markets, Anssi Vanjoki, said that the new Nokia Booklet 3G netbook will have an unsubsidized price of $810 (570 Euros) and will feature the Windows 7 operating system, a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor, and 12 hours of battery life. The netbook will sport HSPA and WiFi connectivity. (See more in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py42EXEuDKw)
Rumors of a Nokia/Facebook integration deal have been persistent since February 2009. The deal was announced in Stuttgart with the introduction of "lifecasting with Ovi," an application enabling users to publish their location and status updates directly to their Facebook account from the homescreen of their mobile device. According to Nokia, lifecasting with Ovi also promises to yield new mobile communication patterns, including sending messages or status updates or navigating to a friend or a place, etc. “Lifecasting with Ovi will be available for both the Nokia N97 and Nokia N97 mini via Nokia Beta Labs. The Nokia N97 mini features new software which will be released in October as a free update for the Nokia N97. The new software brings compelling new experiences to both devices, including new homescreen widgets and additional usability improvements including flick scrolling,” said Nokia in a press release.
From handset vendor to services company
Nokia this year revealed its plans to transform itself into a services company, and has set the target of multiplying the users of its services nearly six-fold, to 300 million, by 2012. The new focus leads the company to promote its e-mail and instant messaging, games, maps and music services ahead of handsets. Many of these services have been rebranded with the Ovi label, with the Ovi Store consolidating a number of existing app and media-sharing platforms into one consumer-oriented app store.
Forming part of the SDK is the Ovi Navigation Player API. This sits alongside the previously launched Ovi Maps Player API, which developers have already being using to create innovative new applications. Adding navigation to the mix offers a wealth of new app opportunities, including the ability to guide app users to specific destinations. The SDK Beta is available by invitation on the Nokia Forum.
Nokia Money is built on Obopay's mobile payment platform
But the most surprising and promising concept of this Nokia World is certainly Nokia Money, built on Obopay’s mobile payment platform for offering access to basic financial services. Nokia Money has been designed to be as simple and convenient as making a voice call or sending an SMS. It will enable consumers to send money to another person just by using the person's mobile phone number, as well as to pay merchants for goods and services, pay their utility bills, or recharge their prepaid SIM cards (SIM top-up). The services can be accessed 24 hours a day from anywhere. Nokia is building a wide network of Nokia Money agents, where consumers can deposit money into or withdraw cash from their accounts.
‘We believe mobile financial services offer a market opportunity with long-term growth potential. In many countries, mobile phone ownership significantly exceeds bank account usage, suggesting that many mobile phone users have very limited or no access to basic financial services. With more than 4 billion mobile phone users and only 1.6 billion bank accounts, global demand for access to financial services presents a strong opportunity to combine mobile devices with simple but powerful financial services such as Nokia Money," said Mary McDowell, EVP and chief development officer at Nokia (http://www.nokiausers.net/Nokia-Press-Releases/Nokia-Money-brings-Mobile-Financial-Services-to-Millions.html).