The future of Nokia
First, I'm confused by Nokia's platform strategy
Second, Nokia's services strategy is muddled
Third, Their most recent hardware designs are baffling
Look at their first touchscreen phones for example, they just added a touchscreen but didn't alter the software of the phone in any great way at all. They seem to be very poor at integrating all the various aspects of a phone, too.
They had a similar problem with Comes With Music. They saw that people wanted music on their phones but didn't put any great thought into it and launched a music service that was behind the times before it even started.
Symbian is really starting to show its age and they need to either overhaul it or get a new platform; maybe Maemo is enough.
I think Nokia need a Steve Jobs or Jon Rubenstein; someone with a coherent vision of what sort of phone Nokia want to make.
The main concept with Comes With Music (we spoke with the guy behind it recently by the way) is that you get free music as part of the purchase for a year. It's aimed at teenagers that can't afford purchasing music on iTunes, and is supposed to prevent piracy among youth.
Nokia also recently announced that they had appointed a new Solutions Director and division, with the aim of focusing on the overall solutions like Apple is doing with success. In this effort, Nokia will try to avoid the “N97 problems” mentioned by Staska elsewhere in this discussion.
Luckily it seems like the Apple competitors have seen how the App Store has failed in that regard as well.
Heck, I just unintentionally deleted and lost all my Skype contacts playing with N900 due to a major UX design bug.
Yep. It's not "that phone" (yet). And Nokia freely and publicly admits that. That phone will come out next year.
But I am lost ( i.e sick and tired) of that "Innovators Dilemma" applied to iPhone vs Nokia.
I haven't read a sequel, but I've read the original ID top to bottom a few times. And isn't Innovators Dilemma about newcomers takin off the shelf components, making cheaper, inferior stuff, that eventually becomes good enough, creates new markets and renders the incumbents irrelevant?
I admit, Android may get there eventually if Nokia was asleep. But iPhone??!! What about that overpriced, albeit very fashionable and attractive device, which wasn't able to become a hit anywhere outside of U.S and (maybe U.K) has anythin to do with innovators dilemma?
At infoSync we dropped offering mobile versions etc. a long time ago, way before the iPhone arrived, as we see it as a failure of the mobile industry if they can't provide what we're producing without us having to take on an extra burden. Opera has acknowledged our stand pretty much since day one, and they're now one of the key providers around the world to ensure we reach handsets. We've had our fair share of developing mobile sites though, starting with the WAP 1.0 age.
It’s obviously nice to see Nokia and the Maemo community now working on helping the Web reaching mobile users through a powerful solution like the N900. That alone should be worth a few hundred bucks of the device price if you ask the publisher in me.
However you did mention "and it has begun losing market share even in its European strongholds, primarily to Apple, though RIM, Samsung, and HTC are also threat". Please refer to the market research studies by Canalys. The iPhone #'s have seen small growth despite being sold via more carriers and not been as major as you seem to think. The biggest player in terms of market gains has infact been RIM with blackberry! Not just in the EU but across the globe with an increased market share of nearly 17%.(Apple in comparison has been around 10% for the past 2-3 Q's).
You can dislike the iPhone -- I'm not especially a fan of it and don't use one myself -- but to pretend that it hasn't had a massive impact on the mobile industry and that Apple isn't emerging as a major player is silly.
Still, I never, ever dismissed the impact of the iPhone on mobile industry. And if you read my posts even in this thread, you'll notice that I acknowledge the shift iPhone made to the whole mobile industry competitive landscape. It's the primary reason of the problems Nokia is facing today.
iPhone proved it's viability and already carved a significant niche for itself, while changing the whole industry habits for the better at the same time. And Apple was way ahead of anyone in UX design when they launched iPhone, and the whole industry dynamics shifted to the competition on usability.
The problem is, I never ever heard of anyone displacing any incumbent with an overpriced, underfeatured device, only because it's much easier and fun to use. And that's what an iPhone is. They've carved their niche, Apple will keep it, and it will grow bigger. But will always remain a niche. Tomi Ahonen has a good article about it, I'd post a link, but it seems I am not allowed to do that.
Getting back to innovators dilemma. I think the whole point there was serving cheap emerging niche markets, building competence there, while no incumbent is watching, because it's not worth the effort, while the niches grow big enough displacing the whole markets, and rendering the old players into niche suppliers when it's too late for them to respond. (E.g. IBM mainframes, they may still rule there, but does it matter?)
Well, sorry, but the niche Apple aimed at in mobile, every incumbent noticed. And started pouring the resources into the stuff. They almost caught up on the user experience part. All of them are still behind on apps/stores, but they will catch up eventually. And they won't get displaced by Apple, which will remain the niche player.
And while everyone in English speaking MSM and even mainstream blogs is focusing about how Apple is taking over mobile world, based, in part on the wrong, super skewed AdMob statistics, they are missing the real story here. Which is the battle between Samsung And Nokia for #1 spot in mobile devices.
The most exciting effort when it comes to design today is probably HTC. In a Forbes interview recently, that U.S. company they acquired seemed to have some great plans for the future of hardware and interface designs. It'll be very interesting to see how HTC will evolve - after all, they've been quite a hardware only company until just recently as well. HTC's CEO has said they'll aim to take over the mobile world, and it now sure looks like he was serious :)
Wouldn't be surprised if HTC ends up in mobile top 5 in a few years. And as far as the open mobile platforms go, they are my litmus test for the viability of them.
They've kept WinMo alive these last 5 years. Were the first to commit to Android. I wonder if they'll pick up Symbian^4.
And they invented independent UI on top of smartphone OS.
I'm a bit worried of them falling behind Samsung in opening that UI to developers, but that's probably just growing pains.
There are several third-party developers that have offered WinMo home screen replacements through the years (and still do), but you're right, when HTC started adding their own applications to the mix for instance, they took it all to a new level.
Samsung makes cheap phones, but it's not always easy to understand why they do what they're doing. They started out with several different interface overlays, and then settled with TouchWIZ. We've given them a hard time for not being able to add third-party widgets at least, and then they released version 2.0 and a "widget store". And now they're all of a sudden releasing bada next month to give developers deeper access.
Sprint has already given Java developers deeper access to the Instinct phones (to try getting something in return from that expensive market introduction), but I'm not sure it helped. It looks like Sprint is now going in the BREW direction. A bad move, since BREW developers are definitely not among the ones that crank out significant applications first (if ever). It'll be interesting to see if bada will be able to bring that "Sprint effort" to a worldwide scale and actually succeed though. It looks like Samsung will throw $$$ at developers at least.
It seems that we are only a few here, with unique perspective, different from those "Nokia's is goin down", and overall understandin of mobile industry. I just hope the author of this thread will pay attention to our posts.
Anyway. Had a super discussion with you about stuff, more interesting then the text of innovators dilemma.
Anyways, if you'd like to meet-up or continue, I'm at UVStaska at Twitter, Stasysbl on Skype and stasys at bielinis dot net on Gtalk/ e-mail
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Many, many years ago I used to review Nokia's fashion phones. Especially one phone had a radical "lipstick" design where you had to use a wheel for text input. It didn't take me long to get it to work decently. In comparison to that phone, the iPhone isn't radically designed at all. And it took me only a few minutes to write pretty fast on the iPhone, yet there are people that find the iPhone too radically designed for them.
Samsung earlier this year wanted to send me to Milano for the release of their new Corby lineup, which represents next year's mass market all-touch phones. Today, Samsung released sales numbers for its all-touch phones this year - 50 million units. Samsung takes the all-touch design very seriously and has large budgets to get these phones out to as many people as possible.
Given the huge sales numbers we're seeing for all-touch phones for the time being, it's no longer a niche for user types. You'll find users in any focus group that would want an all-touch phone. From a product design perspective however, these phones are still regarded as a niche, now just a large niche. Because, you can't throw an all-touch phone to a person the way you could with a candybar, clamshell or slider phone and expect them to easily come to peace with it. The all-touch phones are still acquired taste at best. I think this will change with time though.
"they're so big and (at least to-date) have been so dominant that it's been hard for them to create innovative new products which might cannibalize their existing product lines",
" they need to to create ONE world-class phone with a great OS"
Do you see any contradictions in those (choice on my part) quotes?
You guys wont find too many people who've used a s60 device who wont have complaints regarding the ui/ux. What gets people raging to Nokia's defense are the dictum's of finality passed by bloggers and some "analysts" just because of miss-steps in a short period of time that they themselves admit to and have been working to address. They have half a dozen media/developer events and information has been out there for whoever bothers to read into it.
As you mentioned "they're so big" - the most recognized brand in the World after Coke - that they cannot afford to concentrate on singular markets. The company might be a non-starter in the US but they are the dominant players in every other market across the world. The domination is not just in the market share but also mind share. Take the example of India and China which make up 1/3 of the world population; In both countries Nokia has market share's of over 60% (dumb + smartphones). In both countries they sell close to 30M s60 phones a year and have a 75%+ market share despite Winmo, Apple and blackberry being available in the markets. (Please keep in mind that only a minority of people buy telco subsidized phones in Asia & even where places where it is officially sold it makes up for very small numbers). Add in the rest of Asia, ME, Africa, Australia and South America (where they are the number 1 player in several countries), how can you expect them to serve just one platform/device?
I would suggest anyone pointing to the smartphone market share #'s over the past few quarters to look at the numbers very carefully. Nokia has lost lost global market share and is in free-fall is the gist of every American report/article but looking at the numbers of Canalys or Gartner numbers, their market share has gone down despite selling more Symbian devices. If you look at additional numbers you will see that this is due to explosion in smartphone sales during the last 18 months and the largest growth has been in the US where Symbian was never a player to begin with!
Also please please PLEASE stop confusing S60/Symbian. S60 is the UI/Nokia layer's on top of Symbian. Symbian is the underlining OS and has a healthy market share in Japan in form of MOAP and was previously also used by SE (eg P900 etc) in form of UIQ.
Please see the Symbian foundation website for their product roadmaps and you will see that they are about to release Symbian^2 and are working to release a completely overhauled version by mwc2012 (the mobile world has notorious lead times of an average of two years :() that has among other things Qt as the development layer.
S30 and S40 are Nokia's proprietary dumb phone OS's and have no relation to Symbian.
(PS: Sorry for the lack of links, Every time I add more than 1 it does not show up when posted :s).
I agree about the need to offer a full range of phones. That said, I asked Nokia recently when we could expect a Maemo powered phone that would compete more directly with the iPhone's high-end capabilities. They couldn't say anything specifically of course, but a few weeks later there was a PowerPoint slide at a Maemo conference that revealed that they at least have concept sketches of it. It's just a matter of time before we'll see a next-generation Maemo all-touch phone with the aim of bringing high-def everything to high-end users. That's the phone a lot of us are waiting for, if not for anything else than seeing how it would perform in the market.
The blogosphere and tech heads like us have been the ones who have generated hype around the device, creating expectations for things which nokia never claimed to be there since the start (small example is the portrait mode).
Plans, frameworks and directions have been laid and shown multiple times by the company and early builds Maemo 6 shown to select developers and certain reporters and as you say it seems to be what would be expected to compete in the markets.
And before someone says "Oh so they expect me to spend hundreds of $'s again to upgrade", No. The N900 will be upgradable to v6 and nokia have promised regular and free updates.
At this point, Nokia is so far behind competitors in the smartphone market, it needs to throw away most of its rich history and start with a vision followed by a timetable. Maemo & the N900 might be exactly that, but it's too soon to say and I haven't yet used the device.
I don't see much value in the services side and would rather see focused efforts on the hardware / OS side, which is where I think they're stronger. Services could help sell hardware as we all know, but they have to be solid, value-add by comparison to existing services. I don't think they are at this point.
Good point on BlackBerry and I'm in agreement with you there. I expect their growth trend to slow for the very same reason.
I agree that RIM and Nokia face similar problems, but by being far smaller (and so far, smarter), RIM seems like it will be able to adapt. Nokia hasn't proven it's even interested in adapting -- rather, that it should be the other way around. It is truly a maddening psychology, and a recipe for disaster.
When looking at RIM's current sales numbers, it's difficult to see how they cannot succeed also in the future. However, their server-side stuff is getting old though. A corporate cloud service like Microsoft's Exchange is now actually starting to work reliably. That was not the case during RIM's first successful years. Lotus and Novell plug-ins for Exchange should be out now as well (or at least on its way), which must be a sign of "direct Exchange solutions" reaching new heights.
Now that Nokia is working with Microsoft on Exchange (as well as the upcoming Office suite), it's not going to be easy for RIM. New Nokia phones no longer support BlackBerry Connect either, which is a clear sign of a new war on attracting corporate customers being on the horizon. Nokia’s Eseries is about to become a cash cow for Nokia and Symbian, no doubt about it.
They missed that competitive turn to Touch/UX completely.
But that is just another turn, that lasts 2-5 years, and then shifts to somethin else entirely.
Nokia ruled the mobile hardware innovation cycle completely. Missed the shift to software/UX completely. Thank's to iPhone, that came out of nowhere and shifted the industry dynamics way ahead of time that Nokia expected.
Still, just as hardware got good enough in 2007, software/UX is gettin good enough just about now.
Except for the artificially created smartphone category, it's all about Samsung vs Nokia in mobile devices.
And Maemo vs. Android, and, maybe. Samsung Bada 2.0, everywhere else. iPhone, RIM, WebOS - they have their niche and will stay there
Nokia will have a very clear strategy of working closely with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. market moving forward. There's no chance these carriers will subsidize Maemo phones before they're rock solid though, and then they'll need time to come up with their own tweaks and customizations, then testing, then new tweaks etc. It’ll take years from today. Just look at Android, only T-Mobile wanted to get near Android 1.0.
The current interface on Maemo will be replaced by a new Qt based interface, and it’s not unlikely to expect that it’ll aim at improving usability. For instance that persistent connection issue in S60 is a good example of the lack of usability for a professional user. Quick access to control stuff that's related to improving battery life should be regarded as high priority on every platform. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we want Apple to make all the decisions for us up front though, then the Android way is better: Let the users mess around and decide how things should be at any given time.
I mean, someone had to review and sign off on some pretty bizarre products and strategies over the last few years. (WiMax Internet Tablet, i'm looking at you.)
I remain baffled by Nokia's approach to the USA market.
There definitely is plenty of money to be made by focusing on only the low-end of the market, I just don't think that psychologically Nokia is ready to cede the higher end of the market to Apple, HTC, RIM, Palm etc., even if that's what they have effectively been doing (at least here in the US).
For years, Nokia has enjoyed a dominant position in Europe, where the company's marketshare is often greater than 50%. Likewise, their early investments in China and India have paid off tremendously, keeping their global handset marketshare near 40%, in spite of relatively poor performances in the US and Japan.
But Nokia's performance in the US market is uniquely affected by company culture. It's a psychological issue, and here's why.
The US market is unique because operators own the relationship with the consumer; Americans buy heavily subsidized (and often free) devices through their service provider in exchange for signing a long-term contract. "Buy a Samsung and get a Nokia for free." This is frustrating to a company like Nokia, which is very proud of its brand and hesitant to cede that relationship with the consumer to an operator. Whether through software components, on-device branding, packaging or other means, operators actively remove Nokia brand elements and insert their own.
The Nokia flagship stores, for example, don't exist to generate sales volume. They're primarily branding exercises, enabling US consumers to experience Nokia and its flagship products without carrier interference. As long as Americans continue to expect cheap or free phones, and Nokia doesn't want to play by the carriers' rules, the company's footprint in the US market will remain marginalized.
Nokia's platform strategy and flagship products are another (entirely complex) matter. S60 is a hugely successful platform to date by any measure, and the company is hesitant to rapidly transition away from it because of that success and the size of their organization. As Peter said, a classic innovator's dilemma.
Symbian ^X is not a platform for advanced devices to be rolled out in 2015, due to the age of its core. EPOC is nearing 20 years old, after all, and there aren't many open source developers who are fluent in its codebase. That's where Linux-based Maemo comes in, and Qt provides a bridge to ease the transition for developers. Think of Carbon and the transition from classic Mac OS to Mac OS X...
Flagship devices will always remain important to the company, and I can't see them ceding that market anytime soon. From the early Nokia Communicator 9000 series to today's N900, they provide a halo effect for an executive team which prides itself on the Nokia brand.
So where do they go from here? Hard to say. They are unlikely to move as quickly with form factors as newer hardware players like HTC, and their software platform is likely slower to evolve than products like webOS or Android. But I've seen Nokia become very fleet footed when it needs to, and make rapid organizational changes accordingly.
It'll be interesting to watch.
The Maemo platform is completely being sold as something it isn't. They keep saying its a "mobile computer" but honestly it is an internet tablet with a phone app strapped on.
S60 has been aging with very little innovation. I'm sure their plan 5 years ago was to have S60 become the standard of what S40 was in the early 2000s but I don't think Nokia realized the market was changing. They have hubris to think they're the market leader that can set standards and trends when they are slowly becoming the opposite of that.
I don't even know why they're in the booklet/netbook market.
They keep producing thousand dollar 8800 series phones which I have no idea who would buy?
Their "normal" phone offerings seem like they're just going through the motions of satisfying carriers with something they can subsidize as a cheap or free phone.
Nokia's lost its way and I don't know if they have the ability to find it again.
The ovi store really reflects the state of development across the Symbian platform. If I were to buy a Nokia phone right now, open the ovi store and search for a twitter app this would be what my selection would look like store.ovi.com/search?q=twitter , for the major web apps people use, there aren't any standout (free) apps and browsing the ovi store reveals a wide array of weak apps. The Symbian app selection is even worse ( www.symbian.org/applications ). App stores are evolving quick, and if Nokia doesn't completely overhaul the ovi store, consumers will increasingly gravitate toward the Apple app store and the Android marketplace, as that will be where the apps of interest are.
Secondly, simply obtaining the latest Nokia smartphones is oftentimes a difficult task. The fact that you can't even find phones like the N900, N97, N97 mini in stores really hurts Nokia's visibility in the states. On the contrary, you can find xpress music phones or whatever low end Nokia phones in most major carrier's stores. I feel that Nokia has to overcome a perception gap in the states. They need to distribute and market their higher end phones much more aggressively here.
Nokia and Sony Ericsson both have similar problems in that they make cool phones, but they are overpriced and marketed very poorly. Simply cramming cool tech into a touchscreen phone isn't enough if people (who aren't enthusiasts) don't know about it and you don't differentiate yourself from the competition.
At this point Nokia needs to revamp their software and app store strategy and possibly consider going with Android on all their smartphones.
They lost focus when it comes to those few phones at the top that should be cool and ahead of its time. There's no doubt that companies like Nokia may currently rely too heavily on research in the market. What do users want? It's a fair question to ask, but for those few phones at the top one can't rely on what people want today. Then everybody out there could simply join the industry and start making phones.
It's no doubt that Nokia really want to succeed in getting a lot of attention from high-end users again though. At the same time the market is changing. The mobile industry is still a fresh industry, with new generations following all of us that are starting to get old. If you look at what Nokia is doing at the time being, it's pumping out handsets for those new generations. It's probably a pretty smart strategy.
Nokia's platform strategy is becoming pretty clear: Qt is supposed to be the main framework on both Symbian and Maemo. However, current Maemo apps will still be able to run on Maemo 6 in an own runtime environment. That's not a new concept in the mobile world obviously. Furthermore, Nokia will also support Flash and Silverlight plug-ins. They're currently also encouraging developers to create Flash apps. A pretty cool Twitter client was recently showcased by Nokia Conversations for instance.
All these various apps will in the future be available through Nokia Ovi Store. The same goes for games. Nokia will no longer add extra effort in a select few games to compete with portable video consoles, but promote the latest and greatest mobile games equally like everyone else.
All in all it looks like Nokia will get a great future. There are others that should worry more.
Nokia's OS is utter tripe, what they need is to focus on hardware, which they *can* do very well and let Android be the bones. Look at the way HTC takes Android, adds its own magic and boom = HTC Hero. It means no more competing apps stores, you remove the resistive touchscreen issues and your software production turnaround is much shorter.
Especially under the threat of Apple, I think Nokia needs to forget where it came from - the old mobile industry, where the OS did nothing but calls and calendar and apps weren't even on the horizon. I honestly think Android is the way to do that...
Also; Nokia can't beat Apple at the unified experience model. The iPhone and iTunes etc are so slick that there's no way they can match it.
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