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Nokia's Foray Into Smartphone Enterprise

Nokia is enabling 43 high-end mobile devices with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, providing Mail for Exchange access to a potential user base of 80 million, in a direct move to push deeper into the enterprise smartphone market.

The announcement this week may also signal that Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) initial corporate e-mail strategy, via its 2005 $430 million acquisition of Intellisync that promised to let users connect any device to any data source, application or network, hasn't fulfilled expectations.

Nokia was unavailable for comment by press time.

"This is an acknowledgment that Nokia needs to compete in the enterprise space and that the Intellisync gamble isn't working," Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com. "This is the required toll they have to pay to get into that space."

The question, now that the toll is paid, is whether Nokia can catch up fast in a market dominated by Research In Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry and the growing challenge presented by Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 3G.

While the Finnish handset maker is the leader in worldwide mobile device sales, its North America footprint is faint given few CDMA-compatible devices that prevent distribution on leading carrier networks such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

"Right now BlackBerry is cleaning everyone's clock, but Nokia realizes the value of Exchange and is going upstream at this point as high-end devices is where the margins are," Gold said.

The 43 devices are part of Nokia's E-Series and N-Series, and Nokia claims in a statement it's the largest device pool deploying Mail for Exchange. It will be a free upgrade for current device owners and available out-of-the-box in future devices.

"The Nokia-Microsoft collaboration to bring corporate mobile e-mail to businesses and mobile professionals is truly unbeatable," said Anssi Vanjoki, executive vice president of markets at Nokia, in a statement.

"No other device manufacturer provides the wide range of devices we have, which immediately mobilize the hundreds of millions of e-mail accounts from Microsoft Exchange," he added.

The application will let users access office e-mail, calendar, contacts and a company directory. Nokia said its users will gain features other licensees' devices lack, including setting e-mail priorities, meeting request alerts, and downloading and editing text and image files.

The Exchange news follows several other recent handset strategy steps. In late August Nokia unveiled three new unlocked handsets the vendor said offer buyers more choice and features. Last week it made a big mobile consumer move with the debut of a new music subscription service and phones that offer unlimited downloads for a year.