Nokia World 2010: Final closing thoughts
As you know, I attended the two day Nokia World event last week and posted a few articles centered on the hardware that we saw in the Experience Lounge areas. I attended the keynotes, met with a few executives and recorded a podcast with the Nokia Conversations team. I then spent the rest of the week touring London and the SouthEast English countryside with my friend Rafe Blandford from All About Symbian. This was my first Nokia World event and I am not quite sure I will attend again as it takes several days to travel and cover the event while consuming my limited vacation time from my “normal day job” while having a negligible affect on my ZDNet or Nokia Experts page views. I would have thought that more US consumers would have wanted in read more about Nokia, but it seems that US consumers have given up on Nokia while Nokia hasn’t shown much affection for the US market.
UPDATE: Please see my new post for a further explanation of my love of Nokia.
I live blogged the opening keynote and it started out with a bang when Niklas Savander showed how Nokia connects people of the world and played a clip from Apple while stating Nokia’s work is more than a feel good tagline. He quoted impressive global stats and also stated, “They work day in and day out, no matter how you hold them.” The Nokia is back statement was also made and his talk fired people up and showed that Nokia is not going to be a pushover in the smartphone market.
Anssi Vanjoki then appeared on stage and jumped right in asking how people can judge the N8 based on some screenshots and the dashboard without even using the device. He revealed some impressive devices and then talked about Nokia’s focus on sustainability and their care of our world.
Purnima Kockikar appeared on stage to talk about Symbian development, which is understandable given that this was a combined event with developers and without them the devices would not be as compelling. The Rovio CEO was a part of this development story and I wish they would have had the developer of Gravity speak since that is THE application that makes Nokia smartphone bearable to use.
The keynote should have ended here as it was already getting a bit long winded, but then we heard from a Vodafone executive who went on for over 20 minutes on stuff that people at Nokia World probably didn’t care much about.
Overall, I was pleased with the opening keynote addresses as the first two showed that Nokia has some fire in their belly and is not going to stand still and lose their worldwide leading market share.
There were also good keynote addresses on the 2nd day from Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Mary McDowell.
Nokia showed off four upcoming Symbian^3 devices at Nokia World and I was impressed by each of them. The updated Symbian UI is pretty slick, while still having many of the same elements from S60. This is a good thing, IMHO, for those Symbian users who don’t want to see a radical change from what they used for years while still offering some of the eye candy and slick functionality seen in the latest and greatest smartphone platforms.
Here are my posts with videos and photos of the devices:
The ClearBlack Display technology looks awesome on the E7 and C6 and it is unfortunate the N8 wasn’t able to get that technology prior to launch. There were N8 devices in just about every employees’ hands and Nokia gave out something like 1000 to developers. None of the media had a chance to get an evaluation device to use, which seems like a bit of a lost opportunity to me. It would have been great for Nokia to let people use the N8 for a couple of days to take and upload photos and video as part of their Nokia World coverage, but I also understand they didn’t want people slamming the software for being buggy since it doesn’t appear it has been finalized yet. This too is interesting as the device was supposed to ship in Q3 and Q3 ends in nine days so it looks like Nokia will not be meeting the timeline they stated back in April for the N8. They need to get the N8 release right though since they haven’t had a great high end smartphone release since the N95.
We did not see much from Nokia in terms of software and services, but the latest Ovi Maps beta with social networking (sharing location) functionality and transit maps (like the London Underground) seemed to be quite good. It is only currently available for touchscreen Symbian devices so I loaded it up on the N97 mini to try out.
The Nokia Conversations podcast team of Dan and Phil were very busy at the show and recorded several excellent podcasts that I recommend you listen to. Make sure to check out the one embedded below since I appeared on it with Rafe Blandford and James Whatley.
Getting down with the journalists and bloggers, Dan catches up with Matt Miller (ZDNet), Rafe Blandford (All About Symbian) and James Whatley (1000 Heads) to get their thoughts on this year’s reveals, reviews and revelations at Nokia World 2010.
Here are the other Nokia World podcasts to add to your schedule:
Nokia and the US market
I haven’t seen a high end Nokia smartphone launch on a US wireless carrier since I started using Nseries devices several years ago and don’t see that changing anytime soon. A few Nokia devices have been launched on US carriers, but they were low to mid-range devices that never really gained much traction. You had to purchase SIM unlocked models and make sure to check if they worked with AT&T or T-Mobile 3G since no device yet supported both (the N8 changes this). The US market is MUCH different than other markets and in my talks with Nokia executives it appears that Nokia doesn’t care much for the US attitude and perception of the smartphone market. I talked a bit about the US media and how they focus on the high end smartphone market with love for iOS and Android. This fascination with Apple by many journalists is interesting as the iPhone has taken three years to get to a point where it can almost do what every high end Nokia device can do, yet the limitations in each year’s devices (no 3G, no MMS, no WiFi tethering, no multi-tasking, no copy/paste, etc.) was glossed over because the UI was slick and there were lots of pretty apps. Are we really that taken by shiny objects?
Android is good and I enjoy using those devices more than iOS devices, but the experience is not consistent across the platform and battery life of Android devices is generally pretty lame. That said, the apps on Android blow away what we see on Symbian devices and the hardware has gotten a LOT better.
Most Nokia devices have solid hardware construction, outstanding RF reception, and decent battery life. However, the last few high end smartphones have had rather anemic internal hardware and broken software experiences so I think this turned off many US consumers (if they even knew about these high end Nokia devices). Without US carrier support there is no real reason to even talk much about Nokia in the US since the US mobile phone system is centered around what carriers have in stores for consumers and there is no way anyone is going to change the US consumer’s purchasing habits to that of looking for unlocked devices. Shoot, the CDMA technology in the US doesn’t even allow for unlocked devices on Verizon or Sprint so Nokia is completely irrelevant to any of those subscribers.
Nokia has also been about much more than the high end smartphone and has a global reach at all levels of the mobile phone world. US media and smartphone enthusiasts do not show much interest in these areas though so they see less value in Nokia.
I heard various people at Nokia state that the US is a priority and that a measured approach will be made, but unless this approach includes direct US wireless carrier support then that is all just talk. Nokia also cannot let US carriers ruin their experiences, like AT&T always does with Nokia devices, and it looks like this will not happen as only Apple gets away with keeping full control of their devices.
Final closing thoughts
I enjoyed my first Nokia World, primarily for the time to spend handling the devices, hanging out with friends, and talking with Nokia employees directly. I heard lots of good things about the Nokia World party, but I found the venue way too packed and after trying to find people who I wanted to talk with (there were no nametags or anything) I left early to meet my family. It seemed more like a party for Nokia employees to blow off some steam and relax from a hard day’s work, which is also understandable. I am not sure it was worth the thousands of dollars in cost though (travel and vacation time from work) and will probably not be going again since I unfortunately don’t see the situation of Nokia impacting the US changing much at all over the next year.
Of course you know I like Nokia products and also like that Nokia is consciously thinking about and taking actions to protect our planet, but it does get to be exhausting at times trying to figure out why such a good company releases substandard products and explaining why Nokia should be part of the conversation in the US.
For some more thoughts on Nokia World, check out these posts: