NEW YORK- Nokia has turned up the volume on its mobile music plans. At its Open Studio press event today, the Finnish handset manufacturer unveiled two new music-focused handsets and several accessories. More importantly, though, it talked about its vision for providing music services.
As an outgrowth of its acquisition of music service Loudeye, which was approved by regulators Monday, Nokia is going to launch a "music recommender" community of music experts, according to Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president and general manager of Nokia's multimedia unit.
The godfather of the recommenders will be renowned artist David Bowie, who will regularly contribute his recommendations on up-and-coming artists and songs. Others participating in the free program will come from about 40 independent music stores around the world, including Reckless Records in Chicago.
Nokia announced the $60 million acquisition of Loudeye in August, aiming to supplant Apple's iTunes service as the leading digital music service. The deal still needs to be approved by Loudeye's shareholders in an upcoming Oct. 11 vote.
Vanjoki said he couldn't go into detail about Nokia's plans, but did suggest that consumers who join Nokia's music program will be able to buy the songs through the site. The recommendation program will launch by year's end, initially in the U.K. and Australia and eventually worldwide.
The new music-optimized devices are part of Nokia's Nseries, which Vanjoki said have already been purchased by 10 million users this year. The new devices are the N95, the first Nokia phone with integrated GPS, and the slim N75, which is targeted for the United States and Latin America. The N95, expected to cost about $700, will hit retail stores in the first quarter of 2007, while the N75 is expected to be available for the holidays.
The N95 may be Nokia's most sophisticated device yet, featuring a 5-megapixel camera, MP3 player, HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity, multiple e-mail clients, Nokia's Visual Radio and dedicated music keys.
Vanjoki called the N95 "the clearest expression of what Nokia means" when it describes its handsets as multimedia computers.
The N75, one of Nokia's slimmest handsets, is a clamshell model that is 19 mm thick, compared to Motorola's RAZR at 14 mm.
Nokia also said it is upgrading its N70, N73 and N91 handsets with music enhancements. The music version of the N91 will have 8 GB of memory for up to 6,000 songs.
Vanjoki said these handsets and the new music services will take direct aim at the existing market for standalone music players. He said there are 67 million Americans with digital music players, while 200 million Americans have mobile phones."We've decided to make it easier by putting all these things together," he said.