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Nokia is Mapping More GPS For Phones

You don't have to draw a map to see where Finnish cell phone giant Nokia is heading.

The company acquired privately-held German gate5 AG, a developer of navigation software. The purchase points to integration of GPS  in its phones next year.

"Acquisition of gate5 will definitely enable Nokia to integrate the maps and navigation features tightly into our device," spokesperson Kari Tuutti told internetnews.com. Tuutti said the buyout, rather than partnering, will speed development.

The deal is only the latest by the mobile phone company. Earlier this month, Nokia paid $60 million in a stock for Seattle, Wash.- based music distributor Loudeye . In June, Nokia and Siemens announced they would consolidate to create Nokia-Siemens Networks worth $30 billion.

Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's executive vice president and general manager for multimedia, said maps and navigation "are natural elements to be offered in mobile devices" which haven't developed as fast as expected. Nokia's purchase of gate5 will accelerate the speed such services are offered to consumers, according to Vanjoki.

Nokia hopes to ride the wave of growth in the Personal Navigation Device market. It expects to enable 15 million units in 2006, compared with eight million in 2005.

The Finnish company said it will continue to support gate5's customers, as well the Symbian, Linux, Windows Mobile, Palm and Java platforms.

Additionally, the acquisition is seen as "an important step" in Nokia's goal of carving out a new "multimedia computer" category for its Nseries phones. As previously reported, the cell phone maker is trying to transform itself into a "lifestyle company."

AOL's MapQuest recently said consumer demand and technology have increased to the point where navigation by phone is a reality. In April, the company unveiled MapQuest Navigator, a GPS service for mobile phones.

In related news, Nokia announced the N80 Internet Edition with support for Wi-Fi networks and IP phone calls. The quad-band GSM and WCDMA device includes a three-megapixel camera phone.

"The Internet has evolved from static Web pages to communities and people sharing experiences," said Ralph Eric Kuntz, Nokia's Vice President for Multimedia, in a statement. The N80 Internet Edition "will be the primary devices for people to participate in this phenomenon, in addition to PC," Kuntz said.

Available in mid-September, the new device allows users to download third-party VoIP applications to use with the integrated Internet calling framework, according to Nokia. The phone can also seek out and connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, according to a statement.