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N-Gage fails to meet sales targets

Smartphone technology central to reestablishment of Nokia's gaming platform

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia has announced a number of changes in a bid to re-establish its N-Gage platform in the consumer market, following comments from top executives that the device has fallen badly short of its sales targets.

According to Reuters, Nokia's multimedia operations manager and EVP, Anssi Vanjoki spoke last week about his disappointment in the performance of the device since its debut in 2002.

"I said we needed to sell six million in three years, and we sold one-third of that. We need to make some changes," Anssi commented.

The most significant of those changes, which follows an ergonomic and functionality redesign in 2004 with the launch of the N-Gage QD deck, is the introduction of N-Gage gaming technology in a range of series 60 Smartphones, rather than relying solely on a single game deck.

The design of the N-Gage has been a contentious issue from the outset, as consumers struggled to see the benefits of the device as a viable alternative to Nintendo's Game Boy, and more so with the release of the DS and Sony's PSP device.

Mobile phone users also showed a reluctance to accept the clumsy design as a mobile phone; its curious shape and button layout awkward and alien compared to traditional handsets. Whilst the QD deck went some way to resolving those issues, the device has consistently failed to perform in the way that Nokia hoped it would, falling massively short of the forecast sales over its three-year lifespan.

Nokia isn't ready to give up on the device just yet though, and although its original single game deck may not have been the overwhelming success it had envisioned, the platform itself is still receiving considerable support from its creators.

A recent slew of new accessories, exclusive game content and renewed third party publisher support have strengthened the device's position, but it's the diversification of the technology in Series 60 handsets that could really turn the tide for N-Gage.

Vanjoki would not disclose sales forecasts for the new product line, but Nokia's chief executive, Jorma Ollila, said that he expects the world market for Smartphones to double next year, reaching 100 million units.

Market researcher Canalys recorded sales of 13 million units in the third quarter of 2005, with Nokia owning 55 percent of that market. The Smartphones have been designed by Symbian and Nokia, and the company has confirmed that its N-Gage gaming platform will be incorporated into the N70, N90 and N91 handsets, with further devices to follow in 2006 as the market increases.

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