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As their market share slumps around the world Nokia has finally thrown down the gauntlet to Apple with Its much-anticipated new flagship, the touchscreen N97 model, was launched in Sydney yesterday.

In both Australia and the USA, Nokia has seen market share slide away in the all important smartphone market, as brands like Blackberry, Apple and HTC grab a share of the action. In the all important US market their share of the total market has fallen from 18.2% to less than 8%.

The new Nokia offering has at least one feature the iPhone lacks: a qwerty keyboard that slides out from beneath a tiltable display. But the keys are small and close together: an inevitable result of the natty small-bodied design.

Powered by the Symbian S60 operation system, the N97 ­ like the iPhone ­ sports a 3.5-inch display. There’s also a 5-megapixel still/video camera and32 gigabytes of built-in storage, which can be augmented by a 16GB SD memory card.

Emphasising that the N97 is as much a mobile computer as a phone, Nokia is putting a lot of emphasis on Web browsing and content provision. A customisable home screen displays live widget feeds such as Facebook and MySpace social networking destinations, news services, shopping, sport and weather information.

Spokesfolk from content providers and widget developers Fox Interactive, News Digital, Austereo and ABC Innovation attended yesterday’s launch and spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities presented by the new model.

Especially enthusiastic was Nick Love from Fox Interactive who saw the main opportunity arising being the advent of mobile advertising ­ less advantageous to ABC Innovation.

 

Nokia was also putting major emphasis on the reborn Ovi Store, which it says now holds more than 20,000 free and paid apps and widgets: less than half the number of offerings at Apple’s App Store, but a vast improvement from just a few weeks ago.

In Australia the N97 will be marketed by Optus and Vodafone, and will also be in some retail stores, including Vodafone subsidiary Crazy John’s. Nokia quotes a recommended retail price of $1129 for the handset.
 

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