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Orange and Nokia have signed a strategic deal involving ten new handsets across the Orange businesses. Most importantly, it means Nokia's Ovi media service is becoming part of the Orange customer's experience.

The ten new handsets will come out over the next three years and will be part of Orange's Signature range, which has so far been largely limited to Windows Mobile devices.

Orange's Signature devices have a home screen application, provided by Abaxia, to replace the existing idle screen and provide quick links to Orange services as well as news-tickers and the like. The deal with Nokia puts links to Ovi services right there in Orange's idle screen alongside its own services.

Ovi is Nokia's m-commerce portal, currently packing a couple of million music tracks and a selection of N-Gage games, but with the stated aim of becoming the place punters go to buy mobile content, from Nokia, and each other.

To achieve this Nokia is willing to bypass operators entirely if they won't work with the wannabe content provider, embedding Ovi and other services into the handset software with links straight back to Finland. But working with an operator is much easier for all concerned, and the Orange connection should put links to Nokia's services onto non-Nokia handsets too.

Not all the links will be to Ovi though - punters wanting music will be guided to the Orange Music Store, while gamers will be offered the option of Orange or N-Gage stores.

Ovi has a very long way to go if it is going to compete with iTunes, which would seem to be a more achievable objective if this deal included Ovi as the preferred music supplier. ®

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