AT&T could launch first Nokia-Qualcomm phone in Q1 ?

by Caroline Gabriel

Nokia’s eight-month chip deal with Qualcomm could bear its first fruit early next year, with a debut launch at AT&T. This would be part of a broader push to gain significant share in north America at last – at the Symbian Foundation’s developer event this week, its head Lee Williams said the OS would help Nokia achieve a target of doubling its US share in 2010.??

Not that success would exactly make Nokia a US leader – its current share is only around 5%, almost an all-time low and in sad contrast to its global position of 38% or more. But the deal to source processors from Qualcomm for the first time – following a lifetime of boycotting the US supplier and the settling of a multiyear patent licensing battle – is an important element in improving the situation.

Qualcomm has strong smartphone platforms – both the high end of its MSM 3G range (moving towards LTE for 2011) and its high powered Snapdragon gigahertz processor for MIDs – but also close ties with US carriers.??These are less important at AT&T than Qualcomm’s old familiar Verizon Wireless and Nokia could still release its first high end CDMA phones for that operator (it just sells low end ODM-sourced models now), though the first wave of LTE will be the key target.

For now, as Qualcomm works more closely with Symbian – its newly formed open source unit joined the Foundation this week, seeking to “influence” the OS’s future shape – AT&T is the top target. Nokia is expected, according to insiders quoted by Venturebeat, to launch its first smartphone using Qualcomm silicon at AT&T in the first quarter of 2010, though no details are forthcoming.??

Nokia has already made some progress at AT&T this year, setting up joint development centers to become more friendly to the carrier’s branding and design, and launching a series of phones including enterprise oriented E Series models. Insiders at the carrier have repeatedly said that there is strong interest in Symbian and using the platform as the basis of AT&T’s own-branded web services from 2010.

The aggressive stance that the Verizon/Google/Motorola combination is taking against the AT&T iPhone lends weight to speculation that AT&T will not center its strategy on Android, though it is sure to launch some Android smartphones as part of its portfolio next year.??As well as the E71x, AT&T has this year launched Nokia’s Surge Symbian smartphone and is providing the 3G connectivity for the Finn’s first netbook, the Booklet 3G.