The flagship mobile computer N97 will begin selling in more than 75 countries this month, the world’s largest mobile-phone maker said on Tuesday.

The phone, which sports a touch screen and Qwerty keyboard, is meant to compete with Apple's iPhone and RIM's Blackberry devices, sales of which ate into Nokia's share of the smartphone market last year.

In the US, the non-subsidized price of N97 is $699, roughly $400 more than the iPhone and the Pre. It has not yet been picked up by an American carrier.

According to Gartner, Nokia's share of the smartphone market fell to 41.2 percent at the end Q1 from 49.4 percent at the end of 2007, while RIM doubled its share to 19.9 percent. Apple's share has shot to 10.8 percent of all smartphones, from none two years ago.

The N97 should not be a niche product, and that its goal was to have similar sales to the N95, which has sold more than 10 million units as of the end of March, Nokia's VP for N series handsets said to Bloomberg.

The Nokia N97 is an important step towards our vision of delivering a highly personalized Internet experience, said Jonas Geust, Vice President and head of Nokia Nseries.

Considering the upcoming launches of the Palm Pre and a revamped version of the iPhone, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi called it a step in the right direction, but noted the N97 is not as iconic a device as the N95 was.

Milanesi said that in order for Nokia to restore its smartphone market share, it needs to release something maybe a bit less expensive, almost a step between the 5800 and the N97, and definitely a much better touch user interface than they've implemented.