Nokia at the crossroads

Back in December, I took a look at the future of Nokia and wondered about their relevance in the mobile space. I spent several hours with them this past week in Las Vegas, here’s some thoughts.

Nokia was pretty candid about where they are in the marketplace and Sr. executives acknowledged their issues, especially in the US market. It appears they get it, which is important. It’s the first step. The question is can they execute in a timely manner. Executing against one platform strategy is hard enough. Executing against S40, Symbian and MeeGo is even harder. Harder still are three variants of Symbian. Nokia does point out that their development efforts are based on QT which means they can leverage across three platforms but that’s still a tough challenge. As it is, Symbian 3 at best brings Nokia on par with other modern platforms. Parity alone is not good enough.

The speed at which the mobile market is moving means it’s hardly game over for Nokia. Especially in light of the fact that no one platform will rule the space as Windows did on the PC. At this velocity, if the lead runners stumble it’s easy to gain ground in a short period of time. I’m not ready to change my view but I do thing with a proper strategy and execution plan Nokia can turn some of the negative inertia against them.

5 responses to “Nokia at the crossroads

  1. Why is 3 platforms for Nokia worse than anyone else. Given their marketshare and aim to serve every segment it seems more justifiable than multi platform Sony Ericsson. See also Samsung and LG which have multiple over lapping platforms.

    Symbian has variants, but then it has a wider reach than anything else. If you discount non-touch there’s only one variant, two this time next year if you perceieve Symbian^4 as different.

    Android looks like it will have similar fragmentation issues between 1.6, 2.x and 3.x, so its hardly an issue to Symbian.

    Sort of suprised to not see you commenting on the open source nature – I’d have thought that there’s mor risk there given they really going the full open source root with Foundations etc and not Gatekeeping.

    I guess US is a big thing for you. Guess that depends where you’re standing.

  2. I am curious as to your thoughts why Nokia might not consider Palm’s WebOS as the better/quicker route to getting more competitive with smartphones.

    I consider them a top candidate for buy them, but they might have a huge ego issue with admitting something like WebOS is better than their MeeGo OS. Symbian is a legacy OS which simply doesn’t appear to have the foundation to support smartphone capabilities.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/who-is-going-to-buy-palm-2010-3

  3. Almost everyone makes the mistake of thinking that the user interface IS the operating system. Certainly the interface is what the user sees and understands, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of value of the platform investment. Look under the hood and you soon realize that Symbian OS is THE most advanced of the mobile OS’s… the richness of the interfaces, the abstraction of the OS servers and app engines… power management… multitasking… security… realtime support (permitting low cost, single core devices)… detail and consistency of developer APIs. S60 is a UI layer on top of the OS and the Symbian has had many, radically different UI’s. The first touch UI I used on Symbian was over 10 years ago.
    The simple fact is that Palm OS offers nothing to Nokia. Webkit they already has, and a modern touch UI in Symbian^3. In addition to Webkit, Nokia has Qt as a cross-platform development platform. Nokia has the broadest mobile services portfolio of any manufacturer (with the arguable exception of Google.) There is nothing in WebOS that offers any value to Nokia and the only possible reason for making an investment would be Palm’s patent portfolio. Palm won’t even give them a leg-up in the American market.
    Now… RIM… is desperately in need of a modern platform. Nokia ships half of RIMS volumes in just the E-series Symbian devices. They would be a candidate for buying Palm (although the smarter solution for them would be to re-use the open-source Symbian and Meego platforms and let Palm quietly whither away.)

    Please stop the naive speculation that Palm or WebOS offers anything to Nokia, and take a more balanced look a what defines a modern mobile OS platform, and a broader look at the strategies that the various vendors are using to compete in the market….they go far beyond a simple touch interface or vertically integrated services portfolio.

    • A few things.

      1. Symbian is a modern OS because the underlying architecture was so robust that it is the only legacy phone OS that can evolve to meet the smartphone age?

      Samsung, the second biggest Symbian vendor is not saying much about supporting Meego when they are doing their own OS (Bada) for smartphones. And then Android, Palm, Windows Phone 7 and WebOS are essentially brand new OS’s. But Symbian doesn’t need any such makeover, other than on the surface (UI)? Its why despite being the biggest smartphone vendor they have pityful little to show in developer support for their Ovi store, right? I guess all the Android and Apple developers just haven’t looked under the hood, right?

      2. RIM is growing much faster than Nokia in smartphones, even if they also have an old OS.

      3. Nokia has the broadest mobile services portfolio? Really, I guess that is why all the leading smartphone vendors do so well without them. Google mobile services are used by other smartphones. Nokia only has, what, 5 million Ovi email accounts, just for their hundreds of millions of users.

      Naive, really???

  4. Having the assets is one thing. Executing them is another. I am not too sure of how Nokia’s efforts would pan out in the west for all the reasons that have been quoted.

    However, what looks like an increasing possibility is that Nokia with its very strong presence in Africa and Asia will be able to integrate services for mass usage. This will a typically mean low margin, high volume, but a very strong relevance to the consumer.

    http://ronnie05.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/1ty4/
    http://ronnie05.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/98/

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