Nokia World 2010: Will the US media ever understand Nokia?
I have lots of respect for Peter Rojas and everything he has done over the years with Gizmodo, Engadget, and GDGT, but I have to say I disagree with many of his points made in his latest editorial titled Nokia’s Fear of Failure and one of the most glaring problems I have with his article is this statement: “Just wait until you see how bad the new N8 is compared with the iPhone 4 or any of the top-tier Android phones.” Really Peter, have you tried the latest software and hardware of the Nokia N8? It is actually quite good and I am more pleased with it than I ever expected I would be. As a person who has used all of the latest smartphone platforms I would have to say the N8 can easily hold its own against the top smartphones today. Some aspects are the almost the same as Symbian S60 5th Edition, but Symbian users like this familiarity for the most part and keeping some of this will let them use their new device without having to relearn the interface. There are also several new elements to give the customers a feeling that they have a competitive device. The home screens look a lot like Android and the extremely fast, faster than iOS, cover flow media player UI is fantastic. The Nokia N8 will sell millions in countries outside the US and unfortunately I think only a few of us who buy them SIM unlocked here will get the chance to experience a very good Nokia product.
I agree that there are problems at Nokia, as we have seen with their steadily declining market share and falling profits. They haven’t had a good high end smartphone for a couple of years now after releasing the “flagship” N97 with old internal hardware and an operating system not optimized for touch. Nokia fired their CEO and another VP has resigned as they start to show outwardly that they are serious about change. These leadership changes will take some time to have an effect, but I think their decision to move to an OS powered by Symbian (the new Symbian from the Symbian Foundation that is) was the right move last year and it shows in the four new products they announced and are showing off here at Nokia World. The experiences I saw across all four devices were fairly consistent so even a low to mid-range device owner will see fresh UI aspects.
Apple has a single device, I guess up to three, if you count previous generations of the iPhone that can still be found compared to something on the order of 10-20 current Nokia S60 and S40 phones (dependent on region) so the amount of money Nokia spends on R&D is definitely going to run at a MUCH higher rate. Nokia spends money reaching the entire spectrum of mobile phone user while Apple focuses on just the high end buyer who has money to spend. Nokia also spends money on various technologies, sustainability issues, services, and much more to do their part to help the planet. If they spent money on a single device and platform, I would have to say it would be scary how fantastic that product would most likely be.
I understand that large companies like Nokia, and Microsoft too, have trouble bringing all the players together to launch successful products, but I do not agree that Nokia lost their way regarding innovation. I think the innovation judgement is highly dependent on your perspective as a consumer and your definition of innovation. The N8 itself has some pretty innovative functions and capabilities, such as USB-to-Go, 12 megapixel camera with the largest optical sensor ever seen on a camera phone, pentaband WCDMA so we don’t have to worry whether or not it supports T-Mobile or AT&T 3G in the USA, Bluetooth 3.0 implementation, and more. How about the Nokia X3 Touch and Type? This phone may not appeal to the smartphone enthusiast, but what other phone have you seen that is dirt cheap and give you a full phone keypad (millions of people still prefer these) with a decent touch screen display and powerful applications? Nokia still does innovate and I don’t think the US media gives them enough credit for the things they do.
Much of the innovation in Nokia products is related to services too, especially when you look at services impacting developing countries (such as Ovi Life Tools and Nokia Money where Nokia’s innovation has led to families having gained valuable tools to live a better life.
I don’t think Nokia is as broken as the US media seems to think it is and having spent some time today with several new Symbian^3 devices I think Nokia is on the right track with such a consistent mid to high level operating system that should encourage developers to bring products to their platform that will at least sustain the millions of consumers they currently have with products coming in the future running MeeGo and Symbian^4 bringing more from other platforms.
Am I off my rocker and am I looking at Nokia through rose colored glasses? This is Nokia Experts so I am obviously a fan of Nokia products and services, but if you follow my writing you also know I don’t hold back punches when I see mistakes and missteps by Nokia.