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What Nokia Must Do To Stay Relevant In Mobile 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the introducing-the-3d-cloud-social-farm-phone dept.
snydeq writes "Mikael Ricknäs reports how Nokia can turn around its three-year slide in the mobile market — one that has transformed the company's iconic N95 into a distant memory given the pace of innovation at Apple and around Android. Completely underestimating the impact of the iPhone, Nokia took too long to realize that Symbian's lack of touch capabilities would hinder its ability to compete in the smartphone market. Moreover, the company's move to open source the OS has significantly slowed down Symbian's development, according to analysts, leaving Nokia with both a lack of support from other vendors and a platform on which competitors can keep a close eye. Meanwhile, developer interest in Nokia's Ovi app store is nearly nonexistent. 'Nokia's problems are still fixable but the window is closing. I am not optimistic that they will be fixed in 2010 because there isn't much time left; if they aren't fixed in 2011, Nokia will be in big trouble.'"
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What Nokia Must Do To Stay Relevant In Mobile

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  • For me .. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Elgonn (921934) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:37PM (#32856108)
    For me all they have to do to stay relevant is release an up to date E90 running Maemo/MeeGo. Apparently that physical phone layout isn't going to ever come back.
  • by migla (1099771) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:39PM (#32856126)

    I hope the (soon to become) MeeGo line will be relevant. I want linux on my phone and I mean close to a desktop GNU/Linux distribution, not like Android that might as well have some other kernel for all I care (almost). Android isn't Linux in the overloaded sense we sloppy humans have come use the name.

  • by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:45PM (#32856192) Homepage
    Funny you mention that b/c my old ngage actually worked w/ the car bluetooth system on my BMW while the newer e61 would never connect. Motor Razr worked just fine, G1, Nexus One also worked just fine. So Nokia needs to do a better job of support bluetooth, and release patches for the bluetooth stack.
  • by DrunkenPenguin (553473) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:47PM (#32856202) Homepage
    N900? What makes N900 hardware so special compared to other smartphones out there? Please, go ahead and enlighten us on this. You also wrote: "As far as I'm concerned the only thing Nokia is missing is a better marketing campaign for their product that compares very favorably with the Apple and Android offerings." Wait a second - compares very favorably? Would you please tell us how. I'm not seeing it. I think N900 is another major flop, but maybe that's only because I happen to live in Finland. Perhaps N900 has been a major success story somewhere else. Please tell me more.
  • Itemization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tepples (727027) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {selppet}> on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:52PM (#32856242) Homepage Journal

    When the average person sees that they can get an iPhone for $200, a BlackBerry for $100, an Android device for $100, a palm device for $100, a Windows Mobile device for $50 or the N900 for $650

    This is true only because the U.S. cell phone market doesn't itemize the phone subsidy on the monthly bill. T-Mobile is the first U.S. nationwide carrier to introduce SIM-only plans that cost less than plans that include a phone.

  • by unix1 (1667411) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:53PM (#32856258)

    They just can't get their act straight.

    Apple came out with the iPhone and followed down the same path with respect to both customers and developers.

    Google introduced Android and their efforts are just as consistent.

    Nokia, on the other hand, bought Symbian which at the time was mostly a feature phone OS, introduced Maemo which used GTK, then acquired Trolltech which was Qt, then ported Qt to Maemo and dropped GTK, then started porting Qt to next version of Symbian, then dropped Maemo and started work on Meego. Now, what next? There are too many moving parts, and too much uncertainty, at least as far as "smartphones" are concerned. Are there politics going on inside the company? If so, someone has to take charge and make some tough technical decisions.

    I personally like Qt and find it easy to program with and I hope they use that as their tool in their future phones and tablets; but, in general, Nokia needs to find a clear direction and stick to it.

  • by Microlith (54737) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:02PM (#32856340)

    Apple came out with the iPhone and followed down the same path with respect to both customers and developers.

    With the caveat of being the only vendor for the platform, which is extremely tightly controlled.

    Google introduced Android and their efforts are just as consistent.

    Which speaks nothing to the hardware manufacturers, whom are abandoning handsets left and right and leaving it up to the community to forge ahead.

    Nokia, on the other hand, bought Symbian which at the time was mostly a feature phone OS

    OK

    introduced Maemo which used GTK

    Maemo was introduced back in 2005. The N900 was its first appearance on anything resembling a phone.

    then ported Qt to Maemo and dropped GTK, then started porting Qt to next version of Symbian, then dropped Maemo and started work on Meego.

    No. The Qt port to the N900 is an officially supported port present in the base install (as of PR1.2) as a compatibility layer with MeeGo. The base Maemo UI and interfaces are still done with GTK. Maemo is still alive, and will get one more iteration through this sort of "MeeGo-Harmattan" hybrid that will be on Nokia's next handset, with the following devices transitioning to MeeGo fully.

    Now, what next?

    Qt. If you're an application developer, just think Qt and use the Qt development tools. Cross compilers for multiple architectures and target OSes are all included.

    Are there politics going on inside the company? If so, someone has to take charge and make some tough technical decisions.

    Undoubtedly, my suspicion is that the N900 was a skunk-works power play to light a fire under everyone else's asses, and I believe MeeGo and the Qt transition is the result.

  • Re:Favorably? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DrunkenPenguin (553473) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:11PM (#32856428) Homepage
    You wrote: "The only fix for Nokia now is to go Android, then the fact they make nice hardware means something again.". Nokia has been well known for making good quality phones, but this is not the reality any more. Hasn't been for past 2-3 years. Flagship product N97 had so many flaws you can not even list them here. Do a google search. N900's hardware has been a nightmare! Just browse talk.maemo.org and you will see why if you are not aware already. Nokia phones used to be good quality phones some 2-3 years ago, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case any more.
  • by jonbryce (703250) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:11PM (#32856432) Homepage

    In Britain, they used to do it the US way, and still do to an extent, but you can now get much cheaper SIM only plans.

  • Re:Favorably? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:15PM (#32856466) Homepage

    Microsoft give the impression that they have completely lost the way with Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile 7 has all the disadvantages of the first generation iPhone, without any of the advantages. The 1st generation iPhone was a flop and that wass without a 3rd or 4th generation iPhone competing with it.

    Given that existing customers are going to be forced to make a switch whatever happens, I suspect a lot of them with switch to Android, and once they do that, they aren't going to switch back unless they have a very good reason to.

  • by DrunkenPenguin (553473) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:17PM (#32856474) Homepage
    Traditionally >90% of the finnish people have been using Nokia phones, but this is changing now very, very rapidly. Nokia is seen as a "lamers choice" in Finland at the moment and the youth + older people are buying Android phones and iPhones more and more every day. Nokia is seen as a loser here in Finland at the moment. Well - let's face it - Nokia is a loser! 70% market value drop in recent 2-3 years - that's just something that's hard to believe, but unfortunately it is true.
  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:18PM (#32856490)

    Undoubtedly, my suspicion is that the N900 was a skunk-works power play to light a fire under everyone else's asses, and I believe MeeGo and the Qt transition is the result.

    If I recall the story correctly, the precursor to the N900 was very much a skunkworks project, and built at a point when Nokia was contractually prohibited from selling a phone running Linux; the N900 was thus a relatively small step that was easy to take once that contractual prohibition was no longer in place.

  • by DrunkenPenguin (553473) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:30PM (#32856580) Homepage
    You wrote: "Nokia has a significant market share in mobile world." Yeah, but that's decreasing at an alarming rate! Right now Samsung has passed Nokia, the world's biggest maker of mobile phones, in shipments of low-end handsets to Western Europe in the first quarter. This is very, very alarming news to Nokia supporters. Nokia has been strong in that area, but is losing now basically everywhere.
  • management at fault (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dnaumov (453672) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:34PM (#32856608)

    Disclaimer: I hold Nokia stock

    What Nokia needs to do is replace it's top management. Unless some drastical measures are announced within the next 2 weeks (Q2 report coming up), the stockholders are going to be demanding that too (just look at Nokia stock trend over the past 8 years, it's really not particularly pretty). The problem is the arrogance and incompetence of the long-time top company officials like Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo (the CEO). Nokia's current situation is very similar to Ericsson a decade ago. They had a very strong market position, but grew arrogant and slow, while the market churn kept on speeding up.

  • by munky99999 (781012) on Friday July 09, 2010 @08:11PM (#32856860)
    My n900 is badass but ya they never advertised it. If it wasnt for slashdot i most likely never had heard of it. The one thing that bothers me. Nokia doesnt seem to be apart of the community at all. They seem to have released the n900 and said go wild, while walking away. They also seem to be walking away from maemo, leaving n900 in the dust.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 09, 2010 @08:35PM (#32857004)

    Well new to iphone4 was a front facing camera 900 had last year. New to iphone4 and android phones is video out which 900 did last year also. Opengl es support and the graphics processor to run it is a huge bonus over iphone4 and android. Wireless sync 900 had last year. Slide cover for the camera 900 has dont think iphone4 or any android phone has. Then there is the application memory space which destroys both iphone4 and android phones. Standard Linux platform huge bonus. Multi task up to 32 applications at the same time. Native sip support. Customability all droids look the same all iPhones look the same I have only played with 5 n900's and each looked unique.

    I don't care that the phone is almost a year old. My wife, daughter, and me all would rather buy the n900 then get any of the available android phones or the iphone4. We all have dumb phones currently because None of us are thrilled about apple products, was disappointed by the blacberrys released over the past year, don't like the win mobile platform, and were waiting for the android platform to mature more.

    The merge between memo and moblin was the only reason why we didn't get n900's as I wanted to see how support went after that. Now we are all either getting the n900 successor or the n900 depending on what nokia does with the successor. Even planning on having to get them unsubsidized.

  • Nokia, on the other hand, bought Symbian which at the time was mostly a feature phone OS, introduced Maemo which used GTK, then acquired Trolltech which was Qt, then ported Qt to Maemo and dropped GTK, then started porting Qt to next version of Symbian, then dropped Maemo and started work on Meego. Now, what next?

    You are over thinking it. The issue of GTK vs. Qt on Maemo is just like on Desktop Linux. App developer can use whichever they want, and most users won't be able to tell the difference. It's like on Windows with Win32 API vs. MFC. The users never cared, and Win32 wasn't "dropped" when MS was pushing MFC. If you want, you can write raw Xlib calls for Maemo.

    As for dropping Maemo, and working on Meego, the two are so similar that it won't matter to most people. The only significant change is that devs will need to package with .rpm's instead of .deb's. They can continue to use either Qt or GTK, or raw Xlib, or WX or whatever they want for writing apps. Qt is, and continues to be, an API with excellent cross platform support, so you can naturally write an app using Qt and make it work on Windows, OS-X, desktop Linux, Maemo, Meego, Symbian, Android (slightly inconvenient since you would need a small Java loader to execute the native Qt app, but that's not a big deal. The android port is admittedly still very immature.)

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:02PM (#32857156)

    For non-smartphones especially around the world, both Apple and Android do not have much of a presence compared to Nokia

    The problem is that Apple/Android/Blackberry are cherry picking the most profitable customers. Apple and RIM would be delighted to sell nothing but higher-end phones forever, leaving the low-end, low-margin phones to Nokia and friends.

    For companies who target marketshare and the low end like Dell, the last 10 years have been sort of murderous on the stockholders. Nokia's has been awful as well.

  • Not exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:54PM (#32857416)

    That's the equivalent of saying a fully-fledged mobile Linux computer (with a really nice front-end) is nothing but a nice browser,

    That depends on what you mean my mobile. A great strength of Linux is the ton of free software around - but much of it targeting X-Windows.

    How much can run on that mobile platform? Software that is not meant for mobile devices doesn't really work for users.

  • Re:Favorably? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wintermute000 (928348) <bender@nOsPaM.planetexpress.com.au> on Friday July 09, 2010 @10:47PM (#32857616)

    Yeah but that misses the point entirely.

    N900 is a sweet phone but a niche phone as you have pointed out yourself. Its missing many features present in the top end droid/iphone software. Simple things like double tap to fully justify a column of text in a webpage, and with Froyo the one big standout - the browser - is left in the dust.

    For example my friend has a n900, he is a linux dev so for him its awesome.

    I run a fedora server @ home and have tinkered with linux for years, but no coding beyond basic scripting, and for me the 'openness' of the n900 doesn't mean much as I can't code for it and make it do all the crazy things you see people hack it into. Sure I can copy/paste other people's efforts but would that compensate for not having all the stuff I'm now used to in Android 2.2 (even 2.1)? not a chance.

    As for the repos, its nowhere close to even the android app shop let alone the apple one. For most people, once the basic phone bit is acceptable (and it pretty much is, left handed fruit aside lol) its all about the apps. I don't know if you have much experience with the iphone or high end droid phones but my friend made the same point, 'there are apps in repos'. I let him play around with my N1 for a bit and he was flabbergasted with the amount of apps/functionality available, and that's just android, let alone the insanely big iphone apps market.

    So the n900 is a great tech demo, great hackers tool for linux devs, but it ain't exactly worth a ---- in the fight for the smartphone market. Now they're going meego, you wanna bet how many issues there will be with version 1? Meanwhile droid will move up to version 3 and iphone keeps getting more polish, power (lockdown and anti apple backlash too lol). Every minute a polished software/hardware combo is not on the market they are losing.

    As for asia/europe, sure there are lots of nokias around and it is still one of the best options for non-smartphones, but for the high end, nobody wants a nokia, they ALL want an iphone or android. There is NO buzz around nokia at all.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Friday July 09, 2010 @10:58PM (#32857650) Journal

    Yes, that makes for a stable, reliable, generally low-margin company.

    Apple, on the other hand, [even with a more diverse range of products than ever], seems to actively search out markets that are poorly served by their existing suppliers [for example, the mp3 and 'smartphone' markets], and product high-end, high-margin products that are easy for the non-technical consumer to purchase and use. The iPod [with iTunes], iPhone and iPad were all high-risk propositions [they all redefined their market, and the competition all began to chase what Apple was doing after they entered the market [which is like skating to where the opposing player is at now to try to get the puck from him, and not even where the guy is skating to at that moment].

    Even with so-called overpriced, underpowered range of computers, they are killing the competition by only selling high-value, high-profit margin computers, and not bothering to kill their margins and their brand by making a $200 netbook for the floor salesman to begin upselling a customer from.

  • by Powerbear (1227122) on Friday July 09, 2010 @11:30PM (#32857766)

    Companies that want make money, make money.

    At the end of 2009:

    Nokia made $1.1B total with a 35% mobile phone market share
    Apple made $1.6B on just the iphone with a 2.5% mobile phone market share

    http://techcrunch.com/2009/11/11/while-rivals-jockey-for-market-share-apple-bathes-in-profits/ [techcrunch.com]

    What's the better business to be in again?

  • by drolli (522659) on Friday July 09, 2010 @11:57PM (#32857842) Journal
    Yes. Nokia has some problem competing with the iphone. Is this bad? maybe. But what Nokia need to focus on is the markets where they are strong and where Apple cant compete. Look at Indonesia, China or other places where you can not sell iphones costing $500-$1000. What Nokia need to do is keep their dominance in these markets stable, and when processing power become cheap enough (you just have to wait) to push a major revision into new models sold in 100s of millions per year, then they can make the change. Anything up to then serve either a very specific market (people who used Nokia for the last 10 Years) or are plainly test devices for Nokia.
  • by J-1000 (869558) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @03:11AM (#32858574)
    No matter what they do, Nokia will not out-iPhone the iPhone. They aren't Apple and they shouldn't try to be. What they are is *European* and they should use that to their advantage. They should become the Swatch of cell phones and start selling phones based on a combination of simplicity, price, and wild looks. Fashion trends change rapidly, and nothing is stopping the large (for a phone) iPhone from being supplanted as a fashion accessory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @04:27AM (#32858736)

    Undoubtedly, my suspicion is that the N900 was a skunk-works power play to light a fire under everyone else's asses, and I believe MeeGo and the Qt transition is the result.

    If I recall the story correctly, the precursor to the N900 was very much a skunkworks project, and built at a point when Nokia was contractually prohibited from selling a phone running Linux; the N900 was thus a relatively small step that was easy to take once that contractual prohibition was no longer in place.

    What contractual prohibition? Any links?

  • Re:For me .. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @04:37AM (#32858766)

    I also liked E90 and E70 quite a bit, and transition to N900 was a bit of a struggle considering the earlier keyboards. Yet, I understand why they dropped them: to my knowledge, Nokia found mechanics of both E70 and E90 quite challenging to manufacture while maintaining consistently acceptable product quality, manufacturing cost and speed. (My better half at time of those phones was one of product managers of one of these models at the company.) It's quite obvious that Nokia has been pushing different set of mechanical solutions since, trying to avoid problematic ones even at cost of losing love of some form-factor fans.

    One can just envy the cult following Apple can maintain; their mechanics couldn't really be simpler, glaring lack of physical keyboard that must be a *real* detriment to considerable portion of customers can be happily ignored or even called a revolutionary improvement, and even if they completely fail at product design process and sell phones that are incapable of providing reliable phone function, their consumers forgive them. Still, I don't believe they are going to sell an iPhone like that to half of Africa...

    Nokia doesn't need to "compete" with Apple. It needs to compete with its' own top management not quite capable of doing their job properly and semiactively sabotaging expertise their company posesses, and after that, real manufacturers in far east.

    And yes: something like 80% or more of the mobile phone market is everywhere below the smartphone-featurephone line, however you define it. For a company like Nokia, fixating too much on smartphones on specific markets would be suicidal instead of ingenious. Yet, they have to try to work on that market, since the definition of different phone classes is going to change. What Nokia does strongly is manufacturing and pushing the mass-market prices down, so benefits of smartphone presence will eventually realise itself that way. So: don't drop smartphones (hardware or software), nor concentrate on them more than what's necessary - instead concentrate on getting the upper management in shape the engineers on the lower levels deserve.

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