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Nokia to reduce smartphone offering by half in 2010

Nokia announces that it will cut back its smartphone portfolio by half in 2010 to have a more focused lineup for the new year.

Nokia N97 Corinne Schulze/CNET

The smartphone space has grown extremely competitive over the past couple of years, and though in a numbers race Nokia continues to sell more smartphones than its competitors, particularly overseas, the Finnish handset manufacturer is slowly losing its grip on the top spot.

Realizing the changing landscape, Nokia announced on Thursday that it will reduce its smartphone portfolio by half in 2010 in order to put more research and development into the products that it does put out. The company released around 20 smartphones in 2009, including the Nokia E71x, the Nokia N97, and the Nokia N86.

"We have cut down unnecessary differentiation, so that we have a far more focused portfolio for next year," said Antti Vasara, head of Nokia's smartphones research-and-development department.

Though Nokia's devices offer high-end features, the company has been criticized for churning out too many models with minimal variation among them. In addition, many (customers and tech reviewers alike) have criticized the Symbian operating system, which runs on a majority of Nokia's smartphones, for being outdated and lagging behind the competition, though it looks like the OS is working on a major face lift. The Linux-based Maemo platform, demoed on the Nokia N900, could also be a key player and differentiator for the company.

One big barrier for the adoption of Nokia devices here in the United States has been cost. Often passed up by U.S. carriers, the smartphones can cost anywhere from $200 to $650 and while the freedom of an unlocked phone is attractive, shelling out that much money upfront for a phone often overshadows any of the benefits. However, part of Nokia's plan is to push smartphone prices down.

"We see...really fierce competition certainly in the high end, but we also see it in the mid-to-low end of smartphones increasing," said Jo Harlow, the new head of Nokia's smartphone unit. "We will defend our position, but we believe we also have tools to play offense as well as defense."

Well, OK then, Nokia. Let's play ball.

(Sources: Reuters, Engadget Mobile)