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Nokia (s nok) today unveiled the N8, the first handset from the Finnish company to use both the Symbian 3 operating system and the Qt cross-platform application framework. Although the physical hardware of the N8 is attractive, the Symbian 3 software is more important to Nokia’s future. The company’s falling status as a market leader is largely due to its reliance on an old interface not fully optimized for touch, so Symbian 3 represents Nokia’s best chance to prove that it can still reign atop the smartphone world.
The N8 touchscreen supports multitouch navigation and gestures, the ability to run multiple programs simultaneously and social network status updates directly from the home screen. With a 12-megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics, consumers can use the N8 to create and edit HD-quality video recordings, which can be shared or viewed on a television by connecting the N8 with a cable. Nokia plans to launch the N8 in the third quarter for 370 euros ($492) in select markets.
The N8 marks Nokia’s largest undertaking to recapture lost smartphone market share — which has dropped to 39 percent from over 50 percent just two years ago . Some of that loss has come at the hands of newer mobile operating systems, such as those from Apple (a aapl) and Google (s goog). As competitors created new platforms and user interfaces, Nokia relied heavily on its aging Symbian S60 system. The lone smartphone exception is Nokia’s N900, which runs on the Maemo platform — a derivative of Linux.
While the hardware looks stellar on paper — the first images captured with the N8’s camera rival those of a high-quality dedicated digital camera, for example — Nokia is pinning its hope on the software that will power the N8 as well as future Nokia phones. Using the new Symbian 3 platform, Nokia hopes to reverse its market share losses and prove to consumers that it can still reign atop the smartphone world. And by leveraging the Qt environment that it owns, Nokia is also attempting to woo developers to write software for new Symbian 3 devices.
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