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Nokia acquires cellity to expand mobile social networking

Nokia is acquiring assets of privately-owned mobile software company cellity to strengthen the device manufacturer's mobile social networking services.

Cellity offers a platform to collect and securely store consumers' contacts in one place, providing a way to connect people across the wired and mobile Web. Cellity's current ad-supported service will be integrated under the Nokia brand.

"We've been talking to Nokia for at least a half a year, because after launching the address book last December we were looking for bigger partners to roll out the service, and eventually during the talks the possibility of a closer relationship emerged," said Sarik Weber, cofounder and, head of communications and marketing at cellity, Hamburg, Germany.

"Nokia has a really strong services division in Berlin, as they bought several other companies such as Plazes and Bit-side, so they have a really strong ?people and places' organization," he said. "They've actually announced a couple of times that they really want to focus on services to strengthen that aspect, including social networking.

"We will lead with our technology, which is proven, and help them to accelerate the service development -- looking at the Ovi Store, they already have social networking elements, and that's where our skills are, so we can help them with that."

Nokia specializes in manufacturing mobile devices and in converging Internet and communications industries, with global annual revenue of $72.16 billion and operating profit of $7.1 billion as of 2008.

It is the world's largest manufacturer of mobile phones. Its global device market sharewas about 38 percent in the second quarter of 2009, down from 40 percent in the same quarter last year and up from 37 percent in the first quarter this year.

Founded in October 2006, cellity AG offers services for aggregating address book data and connects popular communication channels. It operates in more than 150 countries and has reached more than 10 million downloads.

Its Address book 2.0 tool enables all contact data to be imported from a wide variety of sources, including mobile-phone address books, Outlook, Twitter, social networks, to one place.

Consumers can access the complete feature set from the cellity Communicator 2.0 interface, including conventional telephony, text messaging, sending emails from their phone, free messaging, Twitter updates, communication with social networks and phone conferencing.

The cellity Communicator 2.0 can be used on any mobile phone or Web browser and keeps data secure and synchronized.

The agreement is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2009. After closing, cellity staff will become part of Nokia's Services unit.

"If you look at our service, it's focusing on making it easier for users to connect with their peers," Mr. Weber said. "They can import contacts from email accounts, their mobile phone book, Web 2.0 profiles and other relevant places and bring them to one place.

"We've been offering mobile ads in our service, although we agreed with Nokia to discontinue our current service by the end of September, which makes sense, because they have their own strategy and we are a part of that now," he said.

"The advertising part is probably just one part of the picture, because it's also a lot about enhancing the user experience in direct relation to Nokia phones, offering a compelling bundle of services, which they've done by launching the Ovi Store and other strong strategic moves."