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The big picture guys know the battle of the future isn't just between newspapers or Yellow Pages and Google/Yahoo!. Indeed, as society goes mobile, it is also between the content owners and handset manufacturers.

During his Day 2 opening keynote at Local ’07, Ralph Kunz, Nokia's head of Multimedia, made it clear there is no escaping that the two worlds are colliding. Cellphone cameras are the tip of the iceberg, with 76 percent interest. But 64 percent also want to use their cellphones to listen to music, 54 percent want to play games, and 49 percent want to browse the Internet. Locally speaking, 51 percent want to use maps, and 31 percent want to search.

“It is something we need to take seriously,” says Kunz. “The local search experience is the one that is most relevant to us. If you don't bring search to the home screen, they'll forget that they have it. It is very important that it be visible on the front of the device and embedded with something that helps you find local content.”

Kunz says that image search is already important and that the company is experimenting with video search. Such searches lead to more usage. Eighty-six percent click to open immediately after conducting an image search. “It is not just a utility,” he notes. “The majority use mobile devices when they are bored and have some time.”

Looking forward, Nokia has launched smart2go, which provides on-screen maps, with 15 million points of interest in 150 countries. “Proximity is extremely important once you have a GPS-based device”  and GPS is going to be ubiquitous with chips currently costing less than $2 each. “It is going to be built into everything.”

Nokia's strategy is to give away maps and routing for free. It hopes such features lead to more market share and the ability to upsell premium services, such as travel guides. It also wants to sell logo positions on maps. “We're building an ecosystem of branded content,” says Kunz. “Why just note a gas station, when it can be a branded gas station” like Texaco?”

Kunz also says that for such services to work, it is critical that they take their part alongside TVs and PCs as part of a “three screen” strategy. “That was the mistake we made in 1999. We didn't take into account the fact that mobile is not a stand-alone. People want to personalize and manage things on their PCs. Mobile will always need to work on the magic triangle of PCs, TV and the phone.”

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