Nokia, Mobile Content and the End of Civilization as U.S. Carriers Know It

Nokia. We here typically think of the Finnish mobile phone giant as just that — a handset maker.

But it’s aiming to be far more. The company began rolling out its “N-Gage” and “Share on Ovi” offerings earlier this week, as Reuters noted. Both are designed to enhance its mobile portal and e-commerce service, Ovi.

N-Gage, of course, is the company’s gaming platform, which debuted in connection with Nokia’s ill-fated handheld game devices. It’s since been retooled to support the company’s mobile phones. The service makes its debut after some product testing difficulties that delayed its introduction several months.

Share on Ovi, meanwhile, is a file-sharing and social networking component for Ovi.

Together, the two additions signal Nokia’s continued commitment to mobile content and commerce through Ovi, which is ostensibly designed to compete with MySpace, Facebook, and a host of their rivals.

With the new additions, it’s poised to become even more of a challenge to mobile content offerings out there. As a result, the continued effort behind Ovi also serves to throw Nokia’s rivals into sharp relief, highlighting the generally sorry state of mobile content.

Here in the U.S., carriers have dominated mobile content — what little there is. To date, consumer content available through our mobile phones has been chiefly confined to news feeds and lukewarm efforts at selling downloadable games, music and video. (Though, location-based services may see some traction shortly, some believe. Nokia’s poised for big things here, as well.)

The mobile portals offered by U.S. carriers, in comparison to their Asian and European counterparts, come across as decidedly lackluster. There’s no compelling reason for the average consumer to spend time there — despite the proven interest consumers have in mobile gaming and portable music (as if it needs to be said, think the Sony PSP, Nintendo DS and the Apple iPod/iPhone). Not surprisingly, uptake has been generally light.

We’ve long lacked the mobile services available to subscribers in other countries, which makes Nokia’s plans seem still more exotic.

Mobile content is the carriers’ market to lose, and they’re doing a good job of just that. I’ve watched Verizon Wireless, for instance, fail to deliver a truly innovative killer app in the mobile content space, much less content that can even approach what we see on the PC-based Web — despite countless alliances with vendors like Microsoft’s MSN.

Is it any wonder that companies like Nokia and Google feel they can move into the mobile content space with impunity?

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