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Nokia Getting Touchier

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
3/30/2009

Analysts are expecting to see updated software and upgraded touch-screen handsets emerge from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) as it tries to recapture some smartphone market share from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and others.

The Finnish cellphone maker already has two touch-screen devices -- the N97 and the 5800 -- as well as the touch-sensitive Symbian-based S60 5th Edition operating system. The 5800 is available now and the N97 is expected in June. (See Nokia: Touching 3G, Nokia's Problem Touch, Nokia's New Touch, and Nokia Claims 5800's 3G Problems Are Fixed .)

"We haven’t announced any other models at this time," a spokeswoman for the company tells Unstrung.

Nonetheless, there is talk of more touch-screen devices from Nokia in the works. “It's clear that Nokia needs to bring competitive touchscreen-equipped devices to market if it hopes to remain a viable smartphone player,” says Carmi Levy at AR Communications Inc.

"I think you will see Nokia get very aggressive over the next six to 12 months as it plays catchup and tries hard to recover some of its market share, especially in the high end where profits are to be had, compared to low-end, low-margin devices,” notes Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates “Nokia has to keep up with the Joneses, and Apple and RIM both have touch, as well as Android.”

There is speculation that Nokia will try and bring touch to the E series of phones, which are generally cheaper than the N series. “I've heard rumors about an S60-based E63,” says AR’s Levy.

"The E series would be the most likely," agrees Jack Gold, “as it affords the processing power and price points that could absorb a touch interface most effectively.”

Ken Dulaney at Gartner Inc. , however, believes that Nokia will work on future touch-screen N series devices. Nonetheless, he suggests that Nokia still needs to get under the screen and improve the code that the touch interface is based on.

"The Previous touch screen was a failure because they tried to take software written for keyboard input and adapt it for touch,” Dulaney says. “[It’s] very, very difficult -- witness RIM's effort to do this with Storm.”

Nokia may be able to tap into a fresh set of developers on the touch-screen front with its open-source Symbian Foundation . “I suspect they're pouring touch-based interface design resources into the next-gen Symbian Foundation-sponsored open platform project instead of retrofitting their existing OS,” suggests AR’s Levy, although he adds that he has “no confirmation either way” of this. (See Nokia Plummets, Looks to US.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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