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Nokia Unveils New Phones, Tackles Privacy

Nokia Monday announced seven new phones, including one that doubles as a game console, as well as new tools for mobile privacy and security, at its Mobile Internet Conference in Munich, Germany.

In a move that is seen as a challenge to Nintendo's Gameboy Advance, the Finnish cell phone giant introduced the Nokia N-Gage. While it can be used as a phone, the N-Gage was primarily designed as a gaming device, according to Keith Nowak, a Nokia spokesperson. Nowak said the N-Gage allows for head-to-head gaming over short-range Bluetooth connections or the cellular network, a feature that sets it apart from the Gameboy.

Nokia said that it will partner with Sega to publish games for the N-Gage, and that the games will be distributed on memory cards. Nowak said more information on the device would be available when the product launches in February.

The company also unveiled six other GSM phones, all sporting color screens and featuring support for Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS), including one with a full keyboard, one with an integrated camera, and one aimed at first-time users.

In addition, Nokia announced several phone accessories, including the Nokia Observation Camera, a stand-alone imaging device that can take and send a picture to a user's phone, and a headset with a built-in digital camera. Pricing is not yet available on any of the phones or accessories, except for the headset, which Nowak said will be about $80.

Neil Strother, an analyst with research firm InStat/MDR, said today's announcements indicate that Nokia is trying to solidify their lead in the market. "They've got their bases covered, from enterprise, to high-end, to low-end products. Nokia doesn't miss too many beats, and I think this is evidence of that."

Strother said that Nokia is really pushing color screens, which will continue to be a key driver for buyers. "If you don't have one now, you will in the next year or two," he said.

Nokia also introduced several solutions for operators and enterprises today. With its presence server, Nokia said mobile phone users will be able to inform their colleagues, family and friends of their activities and whereabouts through their profile status. Users can determine who can and cannot access their presence information.

"With presence, operators will have a chance to create and offer new services for their subscribers and stimulate growth and revenues from all forms of mobile communication, ranging from voice to data," Niklas Savander, vice president and general manager of Mobile Software for Nokia, said in a statement. "The presence concept is familiar from the Internet world. But presence in the mobile context will bring far more enhanced and exciting possibilities to create applications."

The Nokia Mobile VPN solution, combined with the Security Service Manager, is an end-to-end security solution that uses standards-based IPSec VPN client software, the company said. It is aimed at enterprises that need to make business applications available to mobile workers.

Vikki Lipset is managing editor of sister site ThinkMobile.