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Nokia Ships N97, With Ovi App Store

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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The N97 mobile computer comes with high expectations – and a price tag to match

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Nokia is shipping the N97, with the Ovi Store holding applications such as Facebook client. But it’s coming at the same time as the Palm Pre and new Apple iPhone models expected next week.

The Nokia N series N97 will be available from carriers in the UK 19 June, along with 74 other countries, news so exciting that Nokia is showing footage of the N97 being made in its factory in Salo, Finland.

Nokia calls the N97 a mobile computer, and it features a 3.5-inch touch-screen with a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It runs the Symbian S60 5th Edition operating system and puts an emphasis on “always on” connectivity to Web browsing capabilities, as well as social networking sites and “social location sharing.”

It has 32GB of on-board memory and a microSD slot for up to 16GB more, a 5-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, 16:9 and DVD-quality video, a music player with playback time of a day and a half, and support for connecting to and sharing over Ovi via HSDPA or a WLAN.

Some believe the N97 combines communications, content consumption and content creation in a way no other mobile device comes close to, including the iPhone.

Neil Mawston, a research director with Strategy Analytics in the UK, however, says his firm views the N97 as simply “playing catch-up” with rivals in the touch-screen and QWERTY keyboard category, and he points out that it is debuting at a time when it’s likely to be overwhelmed by the hype surrounding the Palm Pre and any new Apple iPhone models.

Overall, Mawston told eWEEK, “The N97 is a baby step in the right direction for Nokia. It is an evolution, not a revolution. We think the N97 is among the first in a growing stream of touch and QWERTY phones that Nokia will launch over the next year or two.

“Of course, Nokia must take care not to overfocus its resources on the current trend for touch and QWERTY and miss the ‘next big thing’ that comes around the corner, whatever it turns out to be,” he added.

At the Nokia Developer Summit held in Monte Carlo in April, Nokia delivered a software development kit for the N97, which is available to anyone who registers at http://www.Forum.Nokia.com. Nokia has underlined the importance of developers and the opportunities they can “open up”— the Nokia app store “Ovi” means “door” in Finnish.

“Nokia will be using the N97 to introduce affluent users to the portfolio of free and paid content that can be found in the online Ovi Store,” Mawston explained. “Like the Apple iPhone, the influence of the N97 will be felt beyond hardware and into services.”

The Nokia N97 will retail for 550 euros, and UK sites are offering it on pre-order for around £500.