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Nokia Plans Entry Into Crowded Netbook Space

Nokia netbook
Mobile phone giant Nokia is planning to join the netbook craze, adding its name a growing list of competitors with plans to debut its own lightweight, low-cost and low-power portable PC.

The Nokia Booklet 3G will mark the latest attempt by a newcomer to force its way into an already packed arena that continues to attract new entrants -- a list of rivals that, if widespread rumors are to be believe, may soon include Apple.

Even if Apple doesn't ride the success of its iPhone into the lightweight, low-power portable PC space, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) will be facing off against a slew of big names with extensive notebook experience -- like Dell, HP, Asus, Acer and Lenovo.

For the time being, Nokia is playing its cards close to its chest, releasing only a few details of its upcoming netbook.

The Nokia Booklet will weigh 2 pounds and 12 ounces, and be less than an inch thick. It will be powered by an Intel Atom processor and support 3G/HSPA and Wi-Fi. The mini-laptop also comes with an HDMI port for high-definition video output, a front-facing camera for video calling, and integrated Bluetooth.

Other features include a 10-inch glass HD-ready display and Assisted GPS, which Nokia said will work with its Ovi Maps gadget to pinpoint locations.

"A growing number of people want the computing power of a PC with the full benefits of mobility," Kai Oistamo, Nokia's executive vice president for devices, said in a statement. "We are in the business of connecting people and the Nokia Booklet 3G is a natural evolution for us. Nokia has a long and rich heritage in mobility and with the outstanding battery life, premium design and all day, always on connectivity, we will create something quite compelling. In doing so we will make the personal computer more social, more helpful and more personal."

Nokia is also touting the netbook's ties to its online applications store, Ovi.

"The Nokia Booklet 3G also brings a number of other rich Ovi experiences to life, whether its access and playback of millions of tracks through the Nokia Music Store, or using Ovi Suite to sync seamlessly from your Nokia smartphone, to your mini-laptop, to the cloud," the company said in a statement.

The company plans to provide additional information on the Nokia Booklet 3G, including pricing and availability, in early September.

Branching out

The Nokia Booklet 3G signals an effort by the Finnish phone giant to branch out into hot growth areas. The company is the No. 1 phone maker in the world, but in past years lost ground in the U.S. as it failed to capture consumers' attention with new releases, particularly in smartphones.

It's is also losing market share abroad as rivals Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) continue to do well.

Until recently, Nokia also lacked exclusive deals with U.S. carriers, which meant its handsets were not subsidized -- making them more expensive that competitors. It also couldn't tap into the marketing muscle of the large network operators.

[cob:Special_Report]However, that's changing -- AT&T (NYSE: T) in May became the first U.S. carrier to subsidize one of Nokia's smartphones -- the Nokia E71x, available for $99 with the standard commitment of a two-year contract.

Nokia has also been making other strides in mobile computing, earlier this month forging an alliance with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) that will begin by porting Office Mobile applications to run on Nokia's Symbian operating system.

That deal, which will see Office first appearing on Nokia's Eseries enterprise devices, marks the first time that Microsoft has ported its Office applications to run on any smartphone operating system besides Windows Mobile.

Nokia in June also struck a deal with Intel, partnering with the world's largest chipmaker to work jointly on upcoming mobile computing platforms -- like netbooks and tablet PCs -- and mobile operating systems.

Threat from Apple?

Meanwhile, Nokia's foray into netbooks may run into some new competition, with rumors flying of plans by Apple to release a netbook or a tablet PC that will compete directly with netbooks.

Some industry observers have said that an Apple tablet -- which many have begun calling an "iPad" or "iTablet" -- may be unveiled as early as a company event on Sept. 7.

Others, however, don't expect any netbook or tablet from Apple until next year, if at all.

Page 2: A smart move for Nokia? Weighing the threats.