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Don’t Call Them Phones

Call any of his new models a cell phone and Anssi Vanjoki will fix you with a stare as icy as the plunge pools he and fellow Finns take after a sauna. But the trio of devices unveiled here this morning in Berlin take Nokia another step towards convincing sceptics that they’re now in the business of making MCs – multimedia computers.

Call any of his new models a cell phone and Anssi Vanjoki will fix you with a stare as icy as the plunge pools he and fellow Finns take after a sauna. But the trio of devices unveiled here this morning in Berlin take Nokia another step towards convincing sceptics that they’re now in the business of making MCs – multimedia computers.

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The N93 takes DVD-like quality video at 30 frames a second with Carl Zeiss optics, while the N73 comes with a 3.2 megapixel camera. And for the more design-conscious user, there’s the N72 (a Steinway piano was the inspiration, we’re told). Available from June and July, the devices will be priced in the range of $300 to $550.

BBC reporters have been using camera phones since 2004 and according to Justen Dyche of the BBC’s news technology group, the introduction of DVD quality video to cell phones will be manna for news organisations, bloggers and ‘citizen journalists’.

But none of these devices, says Vanjoki, head of Nokia’s multimedia business, is ‘just a camera phone’, since under the hood of each is a high quality digital music player, radio, games, email, web browsing, office applications and connectivity through USB 2.0 and Bluetooth (the N93 also offers WLAN). Last year Nokia became the biggest manufacturer of both digital cameras and music players. And with the recent N92 model Nokia is pushing into DVB TV too.

Nokia also announced deals today with Flickr and Adobe to add photo sharing and video-editing software to the new devices. Nothing startling there, but it’s a sign of Nokia’s growing awareness that it needs major league partnerships to prosper in the race to convergence. A big name deal on the VoIP front is rumored for the summer.

Vanjoki, a Nokia veteran, predicts the market for these kinds of converged über-gadgets will grow from 53 million last year to 250 million in 2008. And who would bet against him? “They said I was cuckoo in 1992 when I predicted that by 2000 cell phones in developed countries would be carried by 25% of the population.

“And they were right,” he admits. “The actual figure was 70%.”

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