Archive for August, 2009

Nokia Unveils Mobile Money Service

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Nokia yesterday introduced a new mobile money service targeted at unbanked users in emerging markets, in the latest move by the world’s largest handset vendor to diversify into services. ‘Nokia Money’ will allow consumers to send money using only a mobile phone number, as well as to pay merchants for goods and services, pay utility bills, or recharge prepaid SIM cards. Nokia said it is building a wide network of Nokia Money agents, where consumers can deposit money in or withdraw cash from their accounts. Nokia said the service would be targeted at consumers who currently have no access to traditional financial services. “With more than 4 billion mobile phone users and only 1.6 billion bank accounts, global demand for access to financial services presents a strong opportunity to combine mobile devices with simple but powerful financial services such as Nokia Money,” said Mary McDowell, Nokia’s EVP and chief development officer.

The Nokia Money service will be operated in cooperation with Obopay, a leader in developing global mobile payment solutions, which Nokia invested in earlier this year. The service is based on Obopay’s mobile payment platform. Nokia intends the service to be open and interoperable with other payment services. “Nokia’s asset strengths, including consumer brand awareness, distribution capabilities and global relationships should serve as logical and necessary extensions to drive innovation in the mobile payments and banking sector,” said Bob Egan, global head of research and chief analyst at Towergroup. “To be successful Nokia must provide a legitimate bridge between operators, banks networks and security infrastructure in order to unlock the broad uptake of mobile financial services.” The service will be shown for the first time at next week’s Nokia World event in Stuttgart, Germany. It is planned to be rolled out gradually to selected markets, beginning early next year.

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Nokia's Very First Linux Smartphone

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Nokia today launched its first smartphone based on its Linux-based Maemo platform. The vendor said that the Maemo software – which has evolved from Nokia’s previous generation of Internet tablets – provides “a PC-like experience on a handset-sized device.” The world’s largest handset vendor will showcase the Nokia N900 phone at the annual Nokia World event in Stuttgart, Germany, next week. It will be available in select markets from October 2009 with an estimated retail price of EUR500 excluding sales taxes and subsidies, Nokia said. “It looks like Maemo, or at least a Linux derivative of some description, will play a key role for Nokia in high-end [products] over the next year or two,” Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics told Reuters.

A move towards Maemo marks a shift away from Nokia’s reliance on Symbian, which currently powers its market-leading smartphone range. “Maemo is clearly far more flexible than Symbian, so it’s a better option for advanced devices using various display technologies and rapidly evolving user-interface software,” MKM Partners analyst Tero Kuittinen told Reuters. Such a move would also be a fillip for Linux, which is increasingly gaining traction in the mobile devices segment; it is also used as the basis for Google’s Android platform. Analysts note that Nokia’s strategy could be designed to curb declines in both its market share and average selling prices in the high-end segment. “Maemo’s got to be the best bet Nokia has in that battle.” said eQ Bank analyst Jari Honko.

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Blockbuster And Motorola Movie Tie In

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Movie rental retailer Blockbuster has signed a deal with Motorola to being “thousands” of titles to select models of the US vendor’s devices. Motorola handset owners will be able to download movies direct from Blockbuster’s OnDemand service. Specific details were not released, including when the service will be available or how much it will cost. The mobile play expands on Blockbuster’s OnDemand movie downloading service offered through set-top boxes for TVs.

The move is the first time Blockbuster has entered the mobile space, and has been viewed by industry analysts as the company’s attempt to halt sliding sales as revenue from its retail locations declines due to the popularity of online movie rental sites. Previous reports suggested the company was in talks with Microsoft to bring its content to handsets using the Windows Mobile platform. Competition in the mobile movie space is strong; earlier this year Samsung launched its own movie store in the UK and Germany, Apple’s iTunes store offers movie rentals, whilst US operators AT&T and Verizon have also entered the mobile video space.

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Sony New Long Life Phone Battery

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Sony has announced a new type of lithium ion rechargeable battery that combines high-power and long-life performance, using olivine-type lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material, notes Telecompaper. This new battery delivers an extended life-span of over four times existing rechargeable lithium ion batteries used in conventional electronic devices and promises to overcome problems of overheating.

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Microsoft Plans Dual Phone Platform

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Microsoft is reportedly planning to promote two versions of its Windows Mobile operating system simultaneously in a bid to catch-up with its rivals in the smartphone market. According to Taiwan’s DigiTimes this week, which cites sources at local Taiwanese handset-makers, Microsoft is expected to launch the next version of Windows Mobile – version 6.5 – on 1 October 2009 but will continue to develop the platform even after it launches the long-awaited Windows Mobile 7, which is scheduled to launch in the last quarter of the year. The reported roadmap will see Microsoft lower the price of 6.5 when Windows Mobile 7 arrives and will upgrade it with a touch interface in February 2010.

The dual platform strategy is seemingly designed to have different platforms targeted at specific competing systems. Sources at DigiTimes suggest that Windows Mobile 6.5 will be positioned to compete with Google’s Android platform, while Windows Mobile 7 will be targeted at Apple’s iPhone. Microsoft is also facing renewed competition in the smartphone space from a reinvigorated Palm, which launched its high-profile Pre device this summer, and Research In Motion, which is increasingly targeting its BlackBerry devices at the consumer market. As previously reported, Microsoft is currently in the process of rebranding its Windows Mobile business as ‘Windows Phone.’

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Wikipedia Launches First Official App For iphone Store

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Wikipedia, the online collaborative encyclopedia, has launched its first official app for Apple’s App Store, reports The Telegraph. Wikipedia admitted that its new mobile software lacked some of the features available in existing unofficial Wikipedia apps, but said it was focusing on “speed and simplicity” on its first version with further versions to follow.

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Asustek 1M smartphones in 2010

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Netbook PC pioneer Asustek has set a modest 2010 shipment target of 1 million units for its newly launched smartphone. According to Reuters, reaching the 1 million milestone would give Asustek a market share of less than 1 percent in the fast-growing smartphone sector.

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