Nokia Aims at Emerging Markets, Cuts Jobs

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Finland’s Nokia is the world’s leading manufacturer of mobile handsets—but even that doesn’t mean the company is immune to economic slowdowns and the rapid maturing of mobile markets around the world. Today, Nokia re-affirmed its commitment to developing markets by announcing seven new handsets and Internet services specifically designed to expand Nokia’s global market presence…while at the same time announcing nearly 600 job cuts in its marketing and research efforts.

“Today’s changes are part of Nokia’s constant renewal where it is important to be close to our customers and ensure that our people are able to focus on the key business priorities,” said Nokia senior VP for human resources Juha Aegraes, in a statement. “Also, our aim is to find alternative work within Nokia for as many employees as possible.”

The bulk of the job cuts come in Nokia’s markets unit, which was formed early this year when Nokia combined three cell phone divisions into a single, larger effort. The company also says it plans to cut about 130 jobs at the Nokia Research Center, focussing the group’s efforts on a smaller set of projects that show the most promise. The overall job cuts total about 600; Nokia employes over 58,000 people worldwide.

At the same time, Nokia announced seven new handsets aimed at emerging markets, including services that focus on email, education, and (yes) agriculture. New services include Mail on Ovi for Series 40 devices, which enables users to create email accounts using just a mobile phone, enabling users to access the communicative power of email (and, presumably, receive heaps of spam) without needing access to a PC. Mail on Ovi will launch this month in selected markets.

Nokia also announced Nokia Life TOols, which will offer “innovative agricultural information and education services” aimed at rural and small communities in rural markets. The idea behind the service is to get information and news to locations that have so far been omitted and/or bypassed by the communications revolution. Initial offers will focus on information relevant to farmers and students, with the whole thing wrapped in an icon-based, graphically-rich interface that can handle displaying information in two languages at once. The service is based on SMS service so it doesn’t depend on higher-tech GPRS or other services to provide coverage. Nokia Life Tools should launch in the first half of 2009 in India, with other Asian and African countries coming online later that year.

Nokia’s seven new devices for emerging markets run the gamut from an affordable media phones (the Nokia 7100 Supernova and Nokia 5130 XpressMusic) to the Nokia 2323 Classic and 2330 Classic (which will support Mail on Ovi and Life Tools, as well as offering Internet capability, FM, and an integrated camera), and just-the-basics handsets like the Nokia 1202 and 1661. Prices on the new handsets will range from about €25 to €90.