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Nokia is pushing its online money pit Ovi with the launch of remote synchronisation and file management, promising much of the functionality offered by Apple's iPhone but without the slick interface.

Ovi is still free, excepting the Files function, and punters risking the beta service can synchronise their calendar, contacts and notes, over the air - assuming a decent data tariff or Wi-Fi connection. The Files app is a subscription service that allows access to files stored on a PC, with file conversion for viewing Office documents and suchlike.

Nokia bills the service as an online backup: you can manage data online but the Ovi interface is pretty basic, and the beta nature shows through every now and then, such as when displaying all-day appointments.

In its current state Ovi isn't going to compete with MobileMe - it still lacks automatic synchronisation and a desktop connection, for a start - but Nokia can't resist taking pride in its step-by-step approach, given the problems that have plagued Apple's big-bang launch of MobileMe.

As Nokia's Vice President of Product and Portfolio Management Jussi Nevanlinna puts it: "Our stepwise approach to rolling out and integrating these and other elements of Ovi lets us learn and adjust according to the feedback we receive from people... We recognize that in the services business bringing something new to market is not the end of its development - it's only the beginning."

Ovi still has a long way to go before it can compete with MobileMe, and while it is heading in the right direction, it won't be easy to make up the considerable lead that Apple has attained. ®

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