Nokia Digs Clams

By now, you must have heard about Nokia's early year disaster -- the big loss in market share that caused investors to drop Nokia stock like a hot sauna rock. The 40% to 29% decline gave hope to challengers like Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERICY), and Samsung and caused many of us to wonder if the Finnish firm could ever come back.

Many industry watchers blamed the problem on a lack of clamshells at the lower and middle level of the phone lineup. For my own part, I suggested that Nokia might be trying to fry too many fish at once, and that it would do better to focus. The PR out of this week's Nokia Connections conference hints that the cell-phone giant is making moves in the right direction.

Three of the five new handsets unveiled today happen to be "fold" designs, or clamshells, in the parlance of our times, and they should hit stores in the second half of the year.

At the entry level, the 2650 is a slick-looking folder with a color screen, Web browser, and calendar/contact software that should retail in the $150 range (before incentives). The 6170 incorporates a camera plus email, instant messaging, and one-touch "push to talk" service for around $300. At the higher end of the product line, the twist-and-flip 6260 adds video capability, Bluetooth wireless, data synchronization, and virtual private networking capabilities for about $500.

Most important, the year's expected 40-item array of new products has been trimmed to 35. Investors looking for meatier details -- like news on possible price cuts or firm targets for market share -- will have to wait, as this week's dog-and-pony show is all about the phones. But for suffering shareholders, the shift in priorities that is evidenced by the new releases ought to provide the first ray of sunshine in what has been a very cloudy spring.

For more Foolish coverage of Nokia:

Fool contributor Seth Jayson will soon be in the market for a new phone, but he owns no company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

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