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DALLAS, USA – We’ve talked about the Nokia N8‘s camera and its ability to record HD video but today we’re shining our spotlight on the four letters sitting at the top of the device. By adding HDMI, the Nokia N8 turns from a sharp shooting camera phone to a mobile movie theatre. Load the N8 up with movies and you’ll be able to watch them over HDMI on any HD TV you like, complete with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. And, if you shoot your own video in HD (720p) you can chop and edit it right on the device, before hooking it up directly to a HDTV to show it off over HDMI. We caught up with one of the folks involved in adding the movie magic to the device, Paul Wheeler. Based in Dallas, Texas, the 19-year Nokia vet is a software program manager and has been heavily involved in the N8’s development. Read what he has to say after the jump.

In brief

  • The Nokia N8 first device with Dolby Digital Plus
  • 5.1 surround sound and HD video output
  • HD video capture and HDMI included
  • Nokia N8 will ship in Q3 2010

The Nokia N8 is the first device to sport a full implementation of Dolby Digital Plus. This isn’t some stripped down mobile version of Dolby Digital, but the real deal. This means that the N8 can throw out not just hi-def video but 5.1 surround sound as well. According to Paul, the combination of Dolby Digital Plus and HDMI means you can do with your phone what you used to do with a DVD player. Of course, it’s unlikely the N8 will take the place of your disc spinner at home, but hit the road and together with an HDMI cable, you can be watching great movies anywhere you find yourself in front of a TV.

Previous Nokia devices have had a basic TV-out function. This enabled users to hook their device up to a TV to play back video and such. This time though, Paul and the software team pushed things much further. Rather than opting for “clone” mode, where the picture on the TV is an exact replica of what’s on your phone’s screen, they created “native” mode. Playing back images and video on a TV in native mode enables the on-screen controls to stay on the device, whilst the images appear in all their glory on the big screen.

No easy feat, as Paul explains: “Creating native mode was a big challenge. The whole architecture of the phone is set up to display on the phone screen. All of a sudden we had to cope with effectively another screen on top of that. That was a big challenge, involving everyone in the software stack, from UI down to adaptation.”

According to Paul though, the results were definitely worth the challenge. Given the effort to create great looking images and video with the device, it seems right and fitting that at the other end there’s the option to show off your work on the big screen. What’s more, those images appear in hi-def, thanks to the HDMI integration. Right now, it’s just images and video which get the native mode treatment, though Paul suggests that it may not stop there. Of course, he won’t say what they’re working on next, but the excitement in his voice hints at even more native mode fun to come. What else would you like to see in native mode? Let us know in the comments below.