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April 17, 2008 3:58 PM

Nokia's dialing into Kirkland, building on Twango media venture

Posted by Brier Dudley

When it bought mobile media-sharing startup Twango last year, Nokia said it would use the Redmond company as a base to expand its presence in the Seattle area. The Finns weren't kidding.

Today the company, the world's largest handset maker, disclosed plans for a major research and development facility that it's planning to open this summer in Kirkland, taking the first two floors of a building being remodeled in the Park Place shopping and office complex.

The 25,000-square-foot space has room for up to 125 employees, signaling Nokia's intentions to tap the region's pool of wireless and software talent. It will also have a distinctly Nordic feel, with an interior featuring natural woods and bold colors.

"This is going to be a Nokia world-class facility,'' said Serena Glover, a Twango co-founder who is now director of entertainment and communities at Nokia.

It's a spectacular surge for Twango, which had 10 employees working from Glover's Redmond basement when it sold to Nokia last summer. At the time Nokia planned to bring five engineers over from Finland and hire five more, bringing the team to 20.

Now Glover, a nine-year Microsoft veteran, is leading a group of 51 building online entertainment and community services that are a key component of Nokia's online media portal called "Ovi."

It may take several years to fill the Kirkland offices, which will also house some Nokia sales people in the area, but Glover said the company is serious about its plans to leverage the area's expertise.

"We're the beachhead now in Seattle and Nokia has recognized Seattle as a key market,'' she said.

Twango's service, now called "Share," pits Ovi against online photo-sharing communities such as Yahoo's Flickr and Google's Picasa, but Glover said Nokia's advantages include its huge user base and its technology for handling and sharing digital media on mobile devices.

Another milestone is coming in early summer, when the Twango-developed photo sharing application will be preloaded for the first time on phones, starting with the upcoming Nokia N78.

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