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Nokia says it gets the picture

The Finnish handset maker plans to significantly expand the number of its cell phones that have cameras--part of company's new strategy to focus more on "imaging" products.

Nokia plans to significantly expand the number of its cell phones that have cameras--part of the Finnish handset maker's new strategy to focus more on "imaging" products.

Nokia Chief Executive Jorma Ollila on Thursday told analysts that the company intends to make cameras a part of nearly every kind of Nokia phone by the second half of 2004. A company representative said that represents a "significant" expansion from the current lineup, which includes 12 Nokia phones that are capable of taking still photographs and recording 15-second videos.

"We see it as inevitable that convergence of mobility and imaging will happen," a Nokia representative said. "Mobility boasts a number of benefits for imaging, as the device is with the user wherever he goes."

Camera phones were first introduced in Japan about three years ago, and have since become so popular that some market analysts believe they've begun outselling digital cameras. Nokia believes it could become the biggest digital camera manufacturer globally in 2003. "We want to be driving this phenomenon very strongly," Ollila said.

Like most other handset makers, Nokia is designing phones to take advantage of a growing demand for services such as MMS (Multimedia Message Service), which allows e-mails to carry attachments such as documents, sound recordings or movie clips. MMS is expected to generate billions in extra revenue for carriers worldwide by 2005, analysts say.

While popular in Europe, MMS has not caught on as quickly among U.S. customers, who have tended to shy away from cell phone services that don't involve making a phone call. But this lack of enthusiasm, analysts say, is changing; more U.S. consumers are demanding camera phones sold by carriers such as T-Mobile USA, which lets people send picture messages.

"These services have a decent chance," said IDC analyst Keith Waryas.