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Nokia launches music, games store

Nokia is back in retail services, but this time it’s tackling much more than ringtones and wallpaper. Today it announced its own online music store designed to compete with the likes of iTunes and carriers’ own mobile music platforms; it revamped the N-Gage platform as software not hardware, launching a mobile games store that will eventually sell games into all of its Series 60 phones; and it unveiled new Internet services such as mapping and city guides.

The host of new services is wrapped up into a single package, which Nokia is launching as the portal Ovi, a Finnish word meaning “door.” And Nokia has left that door open for numerous other services, many of which will be coming in the next year, said CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo in a prepared statement from the Nokia GoPlay event in London.

“We started this journey with our navigation services earlier this year, and we are now combining all of our services into a single branded offering — Ovi by Nokia,” Kallasvuo said. “Over the coming 12 months, you will see us integrate new user interface elements, service suites and Web communities to Ovi.”

Nokia has always had its finger in Internet services, launching Club Nokia in 1998 to tap into the still nascent ringtone and wallpaper market. Nokia’s stated goal has always been to spur the market, creating demand for its media-capable phones, and that appears to be the aim of the Ovi launch.

Nokia has enjoyed both critical and economic success with its Nseries of Series 60-based multimedia and smartphones, and the new portal is clearly intended to boost Nseries phone sales. As part of the Ovi launch, Nokia unveiled three new Nseries phones, all targeted at music, entertainment and gaming, including the 8-GB N81, a device Nokia is positioning as an Apple iPhone competitor.

But just as Club Nokia earned the ire of many operators, who took exception to one of their prime vendors moving in on their turf, Ovi is likely to make waves among operators who are pursuing their own music in content strategies. That issue may be particularly problematic for Nokia in the U.S., where it depends on carriers to sell the majority of its devices, and it is still struggling to gain market share against dominant handset vendors Motorola, LG Electronics and Samsung and break back into the CDMA market.

For that reason, certain elements of Ovi may not be launched in the U.S. While the Ovi Web site,, will launch globally, Nokia announced plans to launch the music portal initially in Europe and expand into Asia, making no indication of whether it would launch in North America.

The launch of a music service was somewhat expected after Nokia bought U.S. music platform company Loudeye for $60 million last year. But the format of the music platform was more of surprise. Nokia has partnered with Microsoft to support its Windows Media software in its media players and will sell songs in Windows Media Audio format through the Ovi music store. The deal is another sign of the growing cooperation between the two companies, which compete fiercely in the smartphone space. Last week Nokia agreed to put Windows Live apps into its phones.

The service follows the format of many of the mobile music stores in the market today, except it is charging the same price, 1 Euro (U.S. $1.37), for each track regardless of whether it is downloaded over-the-air to the phone or to a PC and then sideloaded onto the device. Nokia will also be offering a music-streaming service for 10 Euros a month. What probably won’t be included in those prices are the airtime costs of downloading a 3 MB song over the air because Nokia is bypassing the carrier and going directly to the customer.

For details on the gaming and Web services supported by Ovi, see this related story published today.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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