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Nokia unveils phones, promises Wi-Fi

And a keyboard

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Nokia won't be neglecting the high-end, the company confirmed today as it tried to answer its critics at a major press launch in Helsinki. The company expects Wi-Fi to feature in many business models next year, and some consumer models too. Nokia has also expanded its Series 60 platform to support 3G and new screen sizes, taking it boldly, if confusingly, into PDA territory.

Nokia will launch fewer models this year than it originally planned - 35 rather than 40. Two new models were launched with Nokia's low-and mid-range Series 40, where the company has failed to keep pace with flashier rivals.

Two new Series 60 models were unveiled, one of which aims to take the sting out of criticism that the company has failed to keep up with retrograde clamshell designs. The new 6260 is a swivel clamshell with a rotating screen, and following Sony's design lead, the top half of the clam rotates 180 degrees. Nokia wants business users to buy this - hence the built-in VPN client.

Nokia has also launched a companion Bluetooth keyboard compatible with the new phone. To the dismay of many existing Series 60 users (10 million or so, reckons Nokia), this won't be compatible with models currently on the market. The lightweight (190g) keyboard will be compatible only with the new 7610 and today's two new models.

Nokia has also put Series 60 into a 3G handset. It has squeezed W-CDMA 3G radio into a device the size of the current 6600 and 6620, which share the same design. This new handset, the 6630, features much more memory (74 MB) than current models and a 1.2 Megapixel camera.

On the flip side

Of the three other handsets announced, one is a 4096 camera flip phone which will face tough competition from Sony Ericsson's new mid range, the 6170, and two more aimed at the budget end of the market, one flip (2650) and one candybar (2600).   For developers, Nokia has effectively folded its three lane roadmap into what is beginning to look like two lanes and an neglected footpath - by enhancing the Series 60 and orphaning the Series 90 platform.

The first Series 90 model, the CX2, was intended to be the successor to the 9200 "brick". It was cancelled last year; Nokia instead gave the venerable 9200 design a polish, as "Series 80 version 2.0". The differences are minimal, but Series 90 supports a large screen and pen input. The 9500 will not support a pen, and supports the same 640x200 screen as the 9200. Executives confirmed that the first Series 90 product to be announced - the 7700, essentially a CX2 without a keyboard - will be shipped, but only as an experiment. Nokia is using it to trial "visual radio".

Nokia executives alluded to the cancellation of the Series 90 keyboard communicator for the first time at the event today.

Instead, the company has devised a "scalable framework" for Series 60 that adds three new screen dimensions. In addition to the familiar 176x208 comes 208x208, which will allow devices that like the 6800, rotate through 90 degrees, and two surprises: 240x320 quarter-VGA, and 352x416. The latter is enormous for a cellphone, hinting that Nokia has set its goals on the portable HDTV market, and promising nightmares for wallpaper designers everywhere. ®

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