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Nokia Life touches down in Kenya, jingles pocketful of Microsoft money

But only rich westerners, and Nokia, get stuff for free

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Nokia Life, the life services mobile app suite for the developing world, is launching the 18-pence-a-year service in Kenya, while Nokia throws another $250m into "the mobile ecosystem" elsewhere.

The money goes to Nokia Growth Partners, Nokia's investment arm which has already made money out of Morpho, Inside Secure, Swype and Netmagic, and is busy expanding into China. Some of that money comes from Microsoft's ongoing support agreement with Nokia, but plenty of it is coming from new markets Nokia has been busily developing.

95 million people have apparently used Nokia Life, which comes in 18 languages to deliver information on crop prices, weather forecasts and (particularly in India) cricket, all delivered over SMS for a monthly subscription which varies between countries but in Kenya will be 2 shillings a month (1.5 pence in British New Money).

Nokia Life is interesting because it's profitable, and sustainable, and while Nokia might view it as a way to upsell mobile phones as data devices (the operator also offers Life+ for those with a smarter handset and a data connection), it's also delivering the much-heralded information revolution to those who have most to gain.

Nokia, meanwhile, is still gaining from its "platform support payments" from Microsoft, which will result in a (small) net flow of cash from Redmond to Finland for another year, though Nokia admits that the flow will soon switch with €0.5bn being owed to Microsoft before the deal expires - so some Windows Phones are obviously being sold.

Perhaps in China, where Nokia Growth Partners has recruited another pair of high-profile locals (pinched from AMD and Keytone Ventures) to guide investment in that most-developing of markets.

Nokia is clearly doing a lot of things right, even if it isn't the company it once was. The spotlight is always on flagship handsets and feature sets, but that's a small part of the mobile industry and while Nokia still needs to get that right it's looking a lot better elsewhere. ®

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