Amsterdam--In a series of press conferences around the world Wednesday, Nokia launched an entirely new line of multimedia devices that includes megapixel cameraphones and the handset manufacturer's first multi-gigabyte hard drive in a phone.
The Amsterdam press conference featured a brief but stylish performance by Alicia Keys. Keys, wearing a blousy orange top, jeans and jeweled boots, sang three songs on the convention center stage. Usually restrained journalists applauded enthusiastically.
Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila admitted at a packed press conference that he's having a hard time calling his company's products mobile phones anymore. He refers to them as mobile devices, while others in the company call them "multimedia computers."
Whatever you call them, Nokia's new "Nseries" of handsets are aimed at a high-end market that wants to combine photography, video, music and enterprise productivity into one device.
Three Nseries handsets were announced Wednesday: the N90, N91 and N70. The first is expected to go on sale for about $900 (700 Euros) in the second quarter, appearing first in Europe and then in the United States in July or August. The second two, priced at about $900 and $650 respectively, will go on sale in Europe in the third or fourth quarter, with U.S. appearances delayed possibly into 2006.
All the handsets are GSM/W-CDMA, so their utility won't be fully reached in the United States until Cingular Wireless launches its 3G network more broadly. The handsets also envision using the multimedia content in a variety of ways, not only over a cellular network, but also synchronization with a PC or even the use of Wi-Fi.
The Nseries handsets are part of Nokia's line-up of smartphones, which Nokia expects to double in sales in 2005 to 25 million devices, Ollila said. He also said Nokia expects to sell 40 million devices this year with MP3 players built into them, making Nokia the largest mobile music device manufacturer. The Nseries phones all will use Nokia's Series 60 smartphone platform.
Earlier this year, Nokia announced it had licensed Microsoft's music player software to put on its phones. Nokia also partnered with another Seattle company, Loudeye, which has a large catalog of digital music and a platform for downloading music over cellular networks.
Anssi Vanjoki, a Nokia executive vice president and general manager of its multimedia division, said the company wants to create a 'world-leading brand' with the Nseries devices. He said the three handsets announced this week will not be the last Nokia will announce this year.
The first handset in the Nseries, the N90, is an imaging phone with a 2-megapixel camera for still and video photography. Ollila said it will use high-quality lenses from the legendary German manufacturer, Carl Zeiss. It has a multiple hinge, "twist-and-shoot" form.
The N91 clearly aims at the mobile music market dominated by Apple's iPod. It has a 4-GB hard drive that will hold up to 3,000 songs. By comparison, the original iPod has a 20-GB hard drive and the iPod Shuffle is 520 megabytes, or 1 GB. The N91 uses W-CDMA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB 2.0 for connectivity.
The N70 will be the smallest Nokia Series 60 phone but includes a 2-megapixel camera, push e-mail, an HTML browser, music player and FM radio.