OULU, Finland (Reuters) - Nokia and Intel said on Tuesday their venture to create a new cellphone software, seen as crucial for Nokia to re-assert itself as the leading producer of high-end handsets, had made a solid start.
Nokia controls 40 percent of the smartphone market with its Symbian software but has lost its leading position among the most expensive models to the new rivals.
Nokia hopes the new MeeGo software, being developed with chipmaker Intel, will help it in its battle against Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android at the top end of the cellphone market.
“Take-up (from software developers) is really positive,” Mika Setala, director of industry alliances at Nokia, told reporters on a conference call.
“The MeeGo community is active, vibrant,” said Martin Curley, head of Intel Labs Europe.
Nokia and Intel unveiled their plan in February to create MeeGo, a merger of Nokia’s Linux Maemo software platform with Intel’s Moblin, which is also based on Linux open-source software.
The companies unveiled the first version of the software to developers over the summer. Nokia’s chief technology officer said there would be more to come but there was a hint of caution in when the market might see the final product.
“We are adopting a policy of releasing early and releasing often,” Rich Green told Reuters in an interview. “A huge amount of functionality has been generated, but there is still quite a bit to go ... (there is a) significant amount of work is still to do.”
Nokia’s Symbian operating system has yet to attract a large number of software developers interested in creating compatible applications, a key selling point for high-end cellphones.
The company’s failure to roll-out successful high-end cellphones, which have fatter margins, has hit the company’s profits and share price hard over the last few years.
In the middle of last year, Apple surpassed Nokia as the handset maker generating the largest total profit, despite selling only one iPhone for every 13 phones Nokia sells.
Nokia’s Setala said the two companies were still looking at creating joint hardware, a plan they mentioned at the announcement of their cooperation agreement last year.
Analysts have said the chip-and-chipset platforms from Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor firm, are too power-hungry for cellphones when compared with those based on ARM architecture. But Intel technology chief Justin Rattner said this was set to change with its new processors.
Nokia and Intel on Tuesday opened a new research center in Oulu, northern Finland, to look into improving user interfaces for mobile devices. They said they plan to focus on developing 3D technology.
“Augmented reality powered by rich 3D user interfaces can transform the phone as we know it into a remote control of your Internet,” said Christian Lindholm, a managing partner at design agency Fjord who works on projects to improve the usability of mobile phones.
“As I look at the success of 3D movies I believe there will be strong development of 3D displays as well,” said the new facility’s director Heikko Huomo.
At 1348 GMT, Nokia shares were down 1.8 percent in Helsinki and Intel was down 0.8 percent in New York. (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Erica Billingham, Simon Jessop and Karen Foster)