Nokia shifts toward software and services

Nokia Corp. isn’t just a phone company any more. At least that’s what executives at the company’s headquarters in Helsinki say.

In the “old days” of the 1990s, Nokia focused on developing technologies for communicating via voice and data, said Bob Iannucci, head of Nokia Research Center. But now and into the future, Nokia expects to move away from a telecom-centric approach into an information technology way of thinking, he said.

The shift mimics a similar move in other industries, such as the computer market, that began centered on hardware. “Look at the PC,” he said. “The market grows, devices become more capable, there’s a shift in the value chain to software, services and solutions.”

Similarly, now, Nokia isn’t just about radios — the component in mobile phones that communicates over the air, he said.

Evidence of the change appears in an array of announcements from Nokia about partnerships with content companies and new software offerings. For example, Nokia has had agreements with Flickr and Yahoo Mail to link directly to those services on some Nokia phones. Also, on Tuesday, Nokia launched a new piece of software and a service for displaying widgets on mobile phones.

Nokia is so focused on software and services that its chief technology officer recently moved to New York City to be closer to companies that are global leaders in the industries. “The biggest software companies in the world are in the U.S.,” said Tero Ojanpera, chief technology officer for Nokia, explaining his move. He named Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. as important companies that Nokia wishes to grow closer to.

He also wants to be near the leading media companies. “Nokia, more and more, is a lifestyle company and that has to do with media,” Ojanpera said. “The best in the world are in New York and Los Angeles.”

In addition, many of the venture capital companies that fund new technologies are based in Silicon Valley and he hopes to build closer relationships with them too.

Ojanpera’s list of Nokia’s technology priorities indicate the shift in thinking at the company, which hasn’t quite fully banished the radio yet. The priorities include: embrace the Internet, excel with software applications and services, win developers with a consistent architecture and lead the multi-radio market.

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