by Ian Fogg

Everyone appears to have spent the last week discussing Nokia’s new flagship N97 phone. But it’s far from the most significant announcement.

Why? The N97 will be premium priced and won’t be the only handset to feature a touch screen from Nokia, or the new 5th Edition Series 60 Symbian OS.  The N97 isn’t due to ship until mid-2009 by which time it will face improved competition. The current models that commentators have compared it with in the last week are a red herring. Against mid-2009 rival handsets the N97 will look less strong.

The N97 is important as a part of a bolder overall strategy by Nokia and is not the entire story in itself.

The mid-range will be the new mobile Internet battleground in 2009:

Samsung (especially), LG, SonyEricsson and Motorola are already pressing into Nokia’s traditional mid range strength. At some point, Apple will extend the iPhone range with lower priced models as it did in the past with the iPod Mini, Shuffle and Nano. This will open a new front onto Nokia’s heartlands. RIM is already targeting consumers with cheap’ish Curve’s and consumer-focused marketing.

Nokia clearly understands its mid-range mobile Internet strategy will be critical. It’s making numerous moves in this area already. Announcements Nokia has made over the last few months focused on mid-range mobile data:-

The smartphone is dead. All phones are smart now. Long live the smartphone!

And, that makes the mid range the mobile Internet battleground for 2009. Nokia is already marshalling its forces for the onslaught from its new rivals.