Nokia unveils new phones, says chairman to step down in '12

Ollila departure seen as aiding push to regain smartphone lead

Nokia today confirmed that Chairman Jorma Ollila plans to resign in 2012, meaning the company will undergo even more sweeping changes as it tries to win back leadership of a complex market with new smartphones.

At its Nokia World 2010 event in London, the world's biggest mobile phone maker announced three new smartphones -- the E7, C7 and C6 -- to join the previously announced N8. All four, expected to ship by the end of the year, use the newest Symbian 3 operating system, which runs faster and supports multiple home screens, touch gestures on the touchscreen and multitasking.

Nokia N8  smartphone

The Nokia N8 smartphone

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"Today, our fight back to smartphone leadership shifts into high gear," Niklas Savander, executive vice president of markets at Nokia, said in a statement.

Ollila's coming resignation, confirmed by a spokesperson via e-mail, could be seen as helping Nokia engage in a renewed smartphone battle, since it opens the way for newly appointed CEO Stephen Elop to lead the company as he chooses.

Nokia didn't give reasons for Ollila's planned departure in 2012. Ollila, 60, was CEO for 14 years until 2006 and has been chairman since 1999. Nokia sells 34% of the world's mobile phones, but it has struggled in the smartphone market and its stock price has declined 70% over the past three years. Nokia's U.S. troubles are partly due to competition from Apple's iPhone and a variety of new Android phones and BlackBerry smartphones.

Nokia E7 smartphone

The Nokia E7 smartphone.

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In the U.S., Nokia has only a 3% share of the smartphone market, according to IDC. Some analysts have been skeptical that Elop, a Canadian who has worked for Microsoft, can reverse that poor showing.

The N8 has gotten widespread attention, mainly in Europe, since it was announced in April. It has a 3.5-inch touchscreen and a 12-megapixel camera. Nokia expects to sell it unlocked for $476.

Nokia C7 smartphone

The Nokia C7 smartphone.

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So far, Nokia has not said whether any U.S. carriers will sell it exclusively or how much a locked version will cost. Analysts expected those details to emerge from Nokia World this week. AT&T and T-Mobile, both GSM carriers, have provided previous Nokia devices, and some blogs said the unlocked version of the N8 in the U.S. will go for $550 and will become available on Sept. 21.

Savander said the N8 has gotten the most online pre-orders of any phone in Nokia history, although it is unclear how strong demand has been in the U.S.

The new Nokia E7 has a physical keyboard and a 4-inch touchscreen that swivels up to reveal the keyboard. Called the "ultimate business smartphone," it is estimated to sell for $643.

The Nokia C7 features a 3.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen display and is designed for use as a social networking device. It can provide live updates from Facebook, Twitter and other social networking services. Nokia plans to sell it for $435.

The Nokia C6 is the smallest of the family of four, with a 3.2-inch AMOLED display; it's priced at $337.

Nokia C6 smartphone

The Nokia C6 smartphone.

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Nokia said it has updated its Ovi Store to provide access to new games and apps, and it's offering free access to Ovi Maps for navigation with its smartphones.

A Nokia executive said the phones will not be released with any U.S. carriers, but they will be available unlocked when they are released. No date was given for when the phones will be available.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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