Nokia World has come to London. It’s the corporation’s own chance to speak to the (previously dwindling) faithful entirely on it’s terms.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the company has to offer the marketplace.
Nokia has been learning some hard lessons in the last few years and — ever so slightly — management has got the message, setting their people free from copious restrictions and making things happen. Witness, for example, the company’s announcement of their free navigation services — it took the market entirely by surprise and set the agenda, simultaneously challenging Google to get off it’s arse. I don’t think TomTom and the other ‘Personal Navigation Device’ (“PND”) manufacturers have recovered. Especially given that a PND is now a mobile device.
Nokia didn’t make the announcement 6 months in advance, giving every player at least two board meetings to plan a response. Instead, Anssi got up on stage and said, “This is live on our 10 most popular devices today. Now. From 10am.”
This kind of aggressive presentation and delivery was unfamiliar to a company accustomed to extensive ‘dialog’ with it’s industry partners prior to anything actually happening.
What has now become clear to Nokia is that its partners — the global mobile operators — are irrelevant, having to dance the tune of the consumer, thanks to Apple’s consumerisation of consumer mobile.
Witness Vodafone 360’s (Samsung supplied) handset hitting the marketplace in prime position in all their stores. The consumer said, “Er yes thanks for that, but when do you get the iPhone in?”
What was it? 50 Vodafone 360 pre-orders vs 50,000 iPhone pre-orders? And that’s just Vodafone.
The operators used to pick and choose their successes. Now, they have no choice but to run fast with the consumer and avoid getting it spectacularly wrong for spectacular sums of money.
It used to be Nokia would live or die by the operator decision to stock their products. Witness, for example, Orange demanding to purchase X million Nokia N95s, “But, yeah, could you take the WiFi chip out? Doesn’t work with our strategy today. Thanks.”
And Nokia, trying to push the market forward with integrated WiFi services for all devices, had no choice but to agree to the request.
In the blink of an eye (as far as a Nokia executive is concerned), the market has changed dramatically.
All those ideas Nokia’s geniuses had to put back in the box because their ultra-thick operator customers didn’t ‘get’ or were utterly frightened off? Yeah. Bring them back.
NFC in every Nokia phone? Yes please. The map as the primary mobile interface? Show us! Integrated presence across bit-pipe networks? You bet.
Of course Nokia did lose it’s way. The company had grown accustomed to presenting the consumer with excellent handsets that, on closer inspection and use, were ridden with stupid bugs. And could be upgraded only with a total wipe and a degree in Nuclear Physics. And only when Nokia finally released the firmware for your country and your operator (which would only arrive the month after you’d upgraded your bug ridden Nokia).
But I think we are over the belief mountain now. Nokia’s senior management now recognise the scale of the challenge facing them.
And they are slowly getting there.
Unlike any other manufacturer, they are actually aiming to make products better than the iPhone. Meanwhile most other manufacturers have settled themselves into making devices that are almost as good.
As if the iPhone is a pinnacle of mobile engineering genius.
It is not. I won’t get into that here though.
The iPhone works for today though. And it works for my mum, your mum, my brother, your sister. Everyone. Even a 2 year old.
So what’s next? Well I can’t wait for the industry to evolve beyond the current application silo model (“look, you can now have folders to organise the applications you don’t use”).
The real sweet spot for me with Nokia is MeeGo — indeed, this should be the focus for anyone who’s evolved beyond a Nokia S40 cheap-phone.
Anssi was very clear to us in his video interview at Mobile World Congress in February: Symbian is for the low-end market (oh, yes, there’s nothing wrong with the N8) whilst MeeGo will deliver their top-end devices.
“Wait until January 2011,” Anssi told us, “Then judge us.”
With all predictions pointing to a sizeable percentage of devices from Nokia next year running MeeGo, it will be an interesting 2011. If MeeGo and Nokia hardware combined actually delivers the next generation mobile devices we’ve all been looking for, I look forward to sparks flying across the marketplace.
One can but hope. I think Nokia can do it.
Although, as I write, I’ve just got news that Anssi — the Nokia equivalent of a steamroller to whom the market was looking to for a fix of the mobile devices division — has resigned.
Well, it’s certainly going to be an interesting 2011 for Nokia.