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Nokia gets closer to Orange, which endorses Symbian

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Nokia has announced it will be working with Orange to customise Symbian S60 handsets, allowing Orange to remotely manage and update interfaces to highlight new services as well as provide an individually customised user experience.

Current Orange signature handsets are all Microsoft Windows Mobile-based, but this deal should provide the same functionality on Symbian.

Nokia has always provided customisation to network operators buying enough handsets - preinstalled graphics and ring tones, in-box leaflets, for example - but this goes a step further. The entire interface can be modified and branded, and remotely updated when desired.

Such capabilities have previously been available to operators deploying additional software, such as clients from Surf Kitchen or Action Engine, and Orange itself uses a client from Abexia on its Pocket PC devices to create a branded experience. But S60 believes its knowledge and experience with the platform lends it a competitive advantage.

Vendors of other solutions will need to concentrate on the server side, managing all these customised devices, or look to other platforms for market development - there are a lot more Java-capable handsets than S60 ones, even if the functionality is more restricted. But they need not be in a hurry to do so. Nokia announced a similar deal with Vodafone in February and we've yet to see any handsets.

Mainly, this is about Nokia trying to appeal to the network operators, willing to go a long way to maintain that handset subsidy which funds its business. With VoIP appearing on handsets already, and Wi-Fi providing latency-free connectivity, network operators are having a hard time justifying a £200 subsidy on a handset which might only use its network for the occasional incoming call. Nokia will be working hard to appease the network operators and trying to demonstrate it is still on their side. ®

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