Nokia gets set for digital convergence trend

Nokia gets set for digital convergence trend

Nokia is prepping consumers for the rollout of presence technology and push-to-talk functionality that arrives in Australia next year.

General manager of Nokia mobile phones for Australia and New Zealand, Alexander Lambeek, said the new mobile phone technologies would help fuel the digital convergence trend hitting the market.

The marriage of imaging, gaming and the mobility space were key enabling technologies that would help drive the multimedia buzz, he said.

“Digital convergence will drive new applications, new products and new markets,” he said.

Presence technology and push-to-talk were two ways Nokia plans to provide products and solutions catering to the converging markets, Lambeek said.

In addition to eyeing the digital convergence space, Nokia plans to focus on the traditional mobile phone market, as well as offer extended mobility to the enterprise (adding more sophisticated security layers (such as firewalls) to make it more of an enterprise product).

“In addition to our brand [our traditional voice products], we want to become synonymous with imaging,” he said.

Taking pictures or video clips on the phone would become popular with consumers, Lambeek said.

On the gaming front, the company recently launched a game-enabled phone, dubbed N-Gage, which he said targetted the over-18 age group itching to play games in a multi-play environment over networks via Bluetooth.

It was another option to the fixed PlayStation, X-box environment, Lambeek said.

“Our business is much more about the eye than about the ear," he said. "It’s much more about the content."

Presence technology, meanwhile, fits into the multimedia trend by offering consumers access to immediate contact availability and the latest and freshest information delivered to your handset, Nokia’s SI Solutions manager, Leslie Shannon, said.

“The technology is a little bit off to the side and no one predicted it, but it’s extraordinarily powerful and useful.”

Anybody signed up to presence service (the fees of which are still being considered by operators) will get GPRS updates. Nokia was implementing presence through the phonebook, she said.

Users can publish and update presence status as well as control who can get the information.

“You can use it to distribute information not just about people but about things,” Lambeek said.

Users can get the latest weather and sports information or extend the scenario into the world of gaming, where players can troll for people who are available and ready to play.

“It gives you the freshest, latest info – and that’s where the real power is,” she said.

Lambeel said it was a passive update channel in the way that SMS was not.

“The key thing is information is always exchanged in the background via the presence server,” she said.

The network elements and external applications are able to access the presence information.

The commercial server was slated for launch in the first quarter of next year, Lambeek said. The presence technology would be embedded into the architecture, and would be based on an open, non-proprietary standard.

“Other vendors are looking at it, but Nokia is the first one doing it,” she said.

Nokia, along with a host of vendors, is part of the Open Mobile Alliance, that is working to help ratify the open standard.

“By the end of next year, it will be a fully, open standard,” he said.

Push-to-talk, meanwhile, is yet another way to keep in the loop, Nokia’s technology and marketing manager, Gill Flynn, said. “It’s a simple concept – it gives consumers the ability to use a phone in a walkie-talkie fashion," he said. "You can communicate with a selected group or individual with the push of a single button.”

She said it’s a new direct method for one-on-one or one-to-group communications.

“It’s a VOIP service over GPRS networks,” Flynn said. “Although it is a voice offering, it is a data offering as well.”

Popular uses for the technology may include select verticals (in the US, for example, NexTel has cornered the construction market) while consumers could be a profitable market.

"While the consumer market here in Australia is an untapped area [it’s an unidentified area], the potential is there to be huge,” Flynn said.

The technology was slated to roll out in the first half of next year, Lambeek said.

And with the rollout of new mobile technologies, the role of the retailer was changing, he said.

“From the consumer’s perspective, it’s important for retailers to know what they’re selling," Lambeek said. "With voice, it has been easy, but now with the convergence trend, the role of the retailer is changing.”

Education becomes increasingly important, he said.

Nokia planned to beef up on the training front.

The way consumers got their hands on product was also changing, he said, and may include the expertise of specialised dealers in the future as the mobility trend played out.

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