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Nokia buys mobile messaging company

Phone maker says it plans to acquire Canadian company, Oz Communications

Nokia on Tuesday said it plans to acquire Canadian mobile messaging company Oz Communications in a deal that is in line with the number-one phone maker’s recent announcement it will renew focus on consumer Internet services.

Oz offers software that lets mobile users access their existing instant-messaging services from AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, with the aim of mimicking the way the IM services work on a PC. Mobile users can see at a glance if their buddies are available and easily maintain multiple IM conversations simultaneously.

Oz software also brings Internet e-mail services from AOL, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft to mobile phones.

The software is designed to work on a wide range of phones, including low-end handsets. While most of the Web e-mail providers have browser- or software-based options for accessing their services from mobile phones, some of those offerings are cumbersome to use and not available on every type of phone. In addition, users of the Oz client can access multiple e-mail accounts from the software.

The acquisition of the Oz software could help Nokia better pursue its strategy of focusing on consumer Internet services. On Monday, the handset maker announced that it would stop developing its business-focused Intellisync mobile e-mail platform, instead relying on enterprise e-mail products form other vendors including Microsoft, IBM and Cisco.

Resources previously devoted to Intellisync will be reallocated to the company’s consumer efforts, including the Nokia E-mail Service. That offering, currently in beta, sounds similar to Oz’s technology in that it aggregates messages from multiple Web e-mail services onto mobile phones.

Nokia said it will continue to support Oz’s existing handset and mobile operator customers, a task that may prove difficult. Other handset makers are likely reluctant to buy technology from Nokia, their competitor and the number-one handset maker on the market. Experts were also skeptical when Nokia acquired the Intellisync enterprise mobile e-mail technology and said it would also continue to support other handset manufacturers.

Oz and Nokia did not disclose terms of the deal, which they expect to close in the fourth quarter. Oz is based in Montreal and has 220 employees. Once the deal closes, Oz will become part of Nokia’s services and software unit.