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July 17, 2009



Oops, it looks like the site lost the rest of your article, which I'm eager to digest. (By the way, thanks for your informative articles on the smartphone market, hysteria, and US vs world.)

As for this post, I read the transcript of yesterday's Nokia conference call, and it was both good and bad. The good: Nokia knows they have to change and are trying to do so; changing the Nokia culture to focus on what they call "solutions" (based on user experience) vs "products". The bad: Nokia is still talking about it (and in somewhat vague terms when questioned by analysts) but this is what Apple already does - and Apple doesn't talk about it, they just do it. And during the call, Nokia's CEO pointed out five key things about the future "smartphone" industry. Great, but Apple already is doing or set up for all of them but one (openness - partnership).

Just to be clear, I don't think Nokia is doomed, but there's a lot to be desired at Nokia as the industry moves into the next phase of mobile handsets.

Tomi Ahonen

Hi Mark

No problem. Actually you were reading the early draft which did not yet have the conclusion posted, so yeah, there was more to come. I hope you come back to read it in full.

I am not suggesting that Nokia has been perfect by any means, the N-Gage for example and first iteration of Club Nokia are good examples of strategic mistakes. But when the whole global economy is tanking, essentially all (non telecoms) IT companies making losses, and at least two of Nokia's direct rivals, SonyEricsson and Motorola post losses, and as the market itself contracts for phone sales; that Nokia is able to hold onto market share - and make profits, that is competent management.

The Nokia culture is one of worrying about losing their lead. There is a lot of management-induced panic that is quite deliberate, knowing the Asians in general, and the South Koreans specifically, will not sit still.

But while their recent newest phones have not totally wowed the world (and thinking back in time, most times its been like that, mild disappointments almost always), Nokia has all bases covered. All bases. Not perfect in all, by any means, and Symbian OS seems to be the biggest headache right now, but Nokia is by far the most completely prepared for all trends in the industry. If it goes ultra-low-cost, Nokia can do it. If low-cost phone owners migrate to mid-phones, Nokia is there. If the money is made in smartphones, like I wrote, Nokia outperforms its total market share, in smartphones.

If the future shifts from devices to services and apps, Nokia is by far the furthest along on both the shift to services and to apps. If the fight is centered around the operating system (like profits in the PC world), Nokia took control of Symbian. If the future is all advertising and free, Nokia is there. If the future is social networking, Nokia is there as well. (they even have the NokiaSiemens Networking unit)

What don't they have? Touch screens? Touch Screens were under 3% of all phones sold last year and Nokia is getting into those now. Big deal.

No time to panic but obviously, its very rough and tough, no time to stop fighting either. It'll get more competitive next year than its now.

Thank you for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Another excellent post, as usual. Glad to see you too are (continuously) doing your part in uncovering the lies that have been thrown at Nokia constantly in the past few weeks (I try my best too). If I didn't know better, I'd think there's a campaign against Nokia going on. Very strange.

If that incredibly factless Gizmodo review wasn't enough, now we seem to have very "deep" analysis of Nokia's results, from a wide range of "publications" or blogs, in more than one instance completely missing the point. And by far.

I'd link to a few of my (angry) posts covering these so-called stories, but I'm against filling comments with links to one's own site.

Anyway, do keep it up. I stand by you and your opinions. And more people should stand by facts, like you always do.


I'm not an industry expert, and so can't give any valuable insight or comments. I'm giving my two cents based on my experiences as a mobile user and what I can see around me.

There's certainly a lot of hype for the Iphone. Even in my country Malaysia everyone knows of the newcomer. It certainly has become an object of desire for a lot of people. With careful operator bundling (in Malaysia its the Telco Maxis) a lot of people are trying it out. Recently even my 63 year old father in law changed his phone to an Iphone. I haven't got a chance to talk to him about his experiences though.

What I can observe is just that around me I still don't see that many Iphone users despite the hype and notoriety. Maybe that confirms the figures. I'm curious though if things will change in time, really curious, especially for Asia. We all know Tomi is completely enamored with SMS. And he has repeatedly say that according to figures Asia is big on SMS. I agree with that, as I live in Asia myself and am part of that SMS culture. What I'm curious about is if Iphone (probably not that good at texting, but I have not really tried it myself) will change the game here. I'm curious if the things that Iphone is good at (looks, interface, user experience) are enough to make it a mainstream device in Asia or will it just stop at being a status thing? Talking about status, the other time Tomi blogged about people in Indonesia buying the most expensive Nokia regardless of the functionality, I wonder if Apple will also become a status device where people in Asia buy it just to show off. Or perhaps it has already become one.

Well, I'm still using Nokia (N97 now), my wife is using Nokia (E51), my father is using Nokia, my other extended family members use either Nokia, Samsung, LG, or Sony Erricson. No Iphone yet except my father in law (whom I know got the phone for status among his friends, as he also uses an Imac, but boots into Windows most of the time). I have only one friend using Iphone. What is interesting is that she claimed she likes the phone so much that she evangelizes it to her family and now all her family members are sworn IPhone users. These are typical Asians. Do you think Apple is doing the right thing?


It's not about which phone maker offers the most features and at the earliest dates. You can have all the bells and whistles but if it's a big pain in the a** to use those features then they're basically useless. Nokia's big problem is software. Just like Sony, Nokia couldn't write software for sh*t. Part of the reason is that it seems they just don't think about the ergonomics of software design. Another reason is Symbian is basically an obsolete OS. Third, open platforms (one OS - many devices) is probably on its way out. The smartphone OS is getting quite powerful but the price of that power is complexity. And the complexity increases probably exponentially if you have to make that OS work in lots of different devices from so many manufacturers. This is Windows' problem and it's fast becoming Symbian's problem as well.


"Even in my country Malaysia everyone knows of the newcomer... With careful operator bundling (in Malaysia its the Telco Maxis) a lot of people are trying it out. "

2 months ago, I spoken to a person who works in Maxis. He said iPhone 3G was not moving as fast as expected.

"I'm curious if the things that Iphone is good at (looks, interface, user experience) are enough to make it a mainstream device in Asia or will it just stop at being a status thing?"

In my opnioin, iPhone (in Malaysia) will be a status thing and a niche device.


"Nokia's big problem is software. Just like Sony, Nokia couldn't write software for sh*t. Part of the reason is that it seems they just don't think about the ergonomics of software design"

I think the original author should rephrase it as "Nokia's big problem is operating system."
If so, I concur. But I believe Nokia sees the current OS's limitation (I would not say it's a problem) and decided to make OS an open source in order to break through the limitation. In which is a good move.

Tomi Ahonen

Hi Vlad, Shelter28, aardman and NKL

Thank you all for your comments. I will respond to each individually.

Vlad - thanks and cheers. Yes, I know you too get really offended when some supposedly reputable sources spread untruths. This is a difficult enough industry with all the complexity, we don't need added confusion by untruths.

Shelter28 - thanks. I did not mean this blog story to be anything "anti-Apple" but it was simply because the original silly Forbes journalist decided to make that commparison. I would have done an equal job if they had picked LG or Blackberry or Motorola..

(I have just added the ending paragraphs to clarify, I do not intend to be Apple-bashing). These comments here were posted prior to that addition by me.)

But yes, good points. About iPhone usability - it is by far better than any other phone, far better than a Nokia. Not for everything, not for everyone, but for example your father-in-law, yes we hear that all the time. People you would never expect to start to surf the "mobile internet" are spontaneously doing it on iPhones. It is a magical, transformational device.

About SMS on the iPhone - there is actually a comparison, found that the iPhone is significantly better for SMS than basic T9 keypads but not quite as good as QWERTY keyboards like a Blackberry. But yes, iPhones are good for SMS, but you have to "re-learn" how to type with it, not using your thumbs, but using your fore-fingers (pointing fingers). Different way to hold the phone, but it is very fast and accurate once you learn that way.

Status symbol, yes, but the problem with that is fashion and cycles. The iPhone looks "the same" as it did 2 years ago. Its no longer hot and new and radical. So Apple needs a new (appearance) edition to renew its appeal. But it is not an exclusive benefit. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What someone thinks is fabulous, someone else thinks is too flashy or too wide or too fancy etc. We have different tastes, someone loves a Ferrari, another loves a Hummer...

About is Apple doing right thing, one thing they are doing wrong and that is limiting their model range to these 2 models. They need at least 4 models, one per quarter of the year. Then they have a great chance to grow size. Now they have a big sales spike in the summer and another for Christmas, but its down hill after that. Need more models.

aardman - you make a good point and I kind of agree with you, but it does not address the issue. Like Thomas Edison said about invention, it is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Yes, we do need to make our gadgets easier to use. But that is by definition not innovation, it is improvement. Apple is brilliant at that, making its devices always even better. Look at the Macintosh, 25 years after launch, it is still the best computer to use, by far better than Windows PCs.. But that is not innovation. Innovation is really what you said does not matter - it is the new feature and the date it was first done. It does NOT matter if it is easy to use or not. Almost any device is initially difficult. But it is still innovation. And innovation is what that Forbes journalist decided to write about. And that is what I took issue with.

But I agree with you, Apple is brilliant at its usability and continues to lead with that, including obviously wiht phones.

As to Symbian OS, I won't get into a debate about its specifics. I'll grant you it is old and shows its age. It was, however, originally developed by, and since then evolved by, phone makers. Apple's OS/X, Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Google's Android and Linux Mobile are all computer operating systems adapted for mobile. There are compromises in that approach, even if your OS is newer. Take just one point, multi-tasking. Symbian has been doing that rather comfortably (if your phone has the memory obviousyl) for a long while already, most of its rivals can't do it.. So Symbian has still plenty going for it.

NKL (first posting) thanks for the info and yes, I agree iPhone will be in all markets, not just Malaysia, except for North America, all other markets it will be a niche product. US and Canada it may well succeed to be an expensive mass market phone.

NKL (second posting) yeah, Symbian Open Source is one deliberate effort to address the software issues.

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Oh my god, BEAUTIFUL !! Talk about setting the record straight !!! And that Forbes article really only reflects what thousands of other "pundits" are thinking and saying... plus, almost everything you're saying applies in one way or another to SonyEricsson as well.

Congrats on a job well done!!


I enjoyed reading this piece. I read the same article (and there's been several like this) and begun to wonder if I was missing something. Clearly a lot of these views seem to originate from the US and I think part of the issue is market isolationism (i.e. viewing the mobile world through the perspective of your home market - something we're all guilty of to an extent - when in reality every market has it unique attributes). There also seems to be a lack of a holistic view - its easy to look at the surface or a limited extent, its harder to a wider view. People who right Symbian OS off as out-dated / slow etc. really do not know what they are talking about (though the touch UI that sits on top is much more debateable).

Nokia does have its problems (like most companies really). The high end smartphone market is quite reasonably cited as an area where they have been weak in the last year or so (relative to their success elsewhere). Is that going to last? I think it would be a brave person who bet that Nokia would make no response at all. The issue for Nokia has been the touch screen phone trend, which they should have caught better. For all this Nokia are still the leader by a long way in the non-touchscreen phone space (RIM is their only real competition).

I think you can make a reasonable case that Nokia currently has software / service engineering development problems. But it's not really surprising, Nokia is transforming itself as they talked about frequently in the last 2 years. It's no easy task, especially because of the scale of Nokia's scope and reach. There's certainly plenty of counter evidence pointing a brighter long term future (DNA like the acquisition of Navteq, creation Symbian Foundation, Ovi strategy and the talk of operation with MNOs, Qt led platform strategy, Webruntimes etc.). Moreover this is non an isolated issue. All of Nokia's competitors face the same issue as the mobile market evolves and continues to expand into / converge with other sectors. Some are coming from the other direction (how doe we produce good hardware), some have scale issue (RIM as enterprise only, Apple's desire to protect its 'elite' brand and expand at same time etc etc.


THIS is the worst article I have ever read, not the FORBES one. Only a complete moron can write the Nokia was "6 years ahead of Apple" at the time when Apple wasn't even making cell phones. Well - Apple has been making computers for decades and Nokia still didn't come up with one! What a nonsense... If Nokia made a computer, a better one than anyone else, would you say - "oooh, do you know when Apple had GUI?"
Nokia is not innovative company. It's the same old story. They were world market leaders and didn't feel they have to make a REALLY good product, because, well - "we're No. 1, so why try harder". And they were punished.
Speaking of predictions, my first Symbian Nokia was N70, second was N73 (I had 5 Nokia phones before that). (Let's not talk about their quality, that's another story. I get really mad talking about that garbage).
Well, when I got it, I said: "This is shameful half-product and it's unbelievable they are asking customers to PAY for THIS??? They should be paying US!!"
So, I was right, and you were wrong... Like you were all through the article.
To use this.. Symbian - you call it innovative?!?
It is the worthless piece of junk I have ever used! Not even the Windows 1.0 was that bad in PC environment!
Symbian to OS X is like steam locomotive to "Enterprise".

So, "it's the OS, stupid!"
The fact is: it's a shame for such a big company that a newcomer to the market showed them how it should have been done. They were supposed to do it.
I've been saying for years (even before the iPhone) that Symbian is dead end, a software zombie. Not to mention that awful, non-working, buggy PC Suite.

Somehow I understand (when you are a Nokia fanboy) that you want to "prove" how your favorite company is actually the best. But to write an article this long, without saying almost anything right... well, I think you need medical help. Mr Ahonen, this is not soccer. We all gain by destroying shameful Nokia and by using better products.
Why? Because people tend to stay brand loyal. That is the ONLY reason Nokia is still the smartphone market leader (going down, thank God). People don't even know how much better the iPhone is.
And if, for example, Nokia buys Palm, would you kill yourself? Would you feel betrayed by Nokia?
Their future should be (if there's any justice) to be leaders in low-end, small profit margine phones. That's what they deserve for making such a crap Symbian based phones.
Of course, we know there's no justice in technology world (just look at the Microsoft). There's a real danger Nokia is next MS.

Nokia never invented anything really revolutionary. Apple did. There is not ONE single feature in Nokia Symbian phones that is better than any on iPhone. Oh, right... the 46325 megapixel camera... Well, since I know something about photography - you only need a GOOD 3 Mpxl camera... It's about the chip size, not megapixels. For anything else, buy a digital camera.

The only way for Nokia is to dump Symbian and start from scratch ("oh yes, but then we have to make a REAL good OS... but we're not innovative enough"). They need a completely new OS to compete with OS X. Or, they should just leave this to the real innovative companies, because they are not one.
To use a Symbian as a flagship OS...oh, please, gimme a break...


Interesting reading but probably "preaching to the choir". I have been able to do things on my Nokia phones for years that my MD brother and my wife still cannot do on their iPhones...but, and it is a big but, my wife now actually uses her phone more than our computer for her Internet work and email...something I thought I would never see. And the key, I think from watching her, is the UI. I even watched a 6-year old start playing with my wife's phone and figure out how to manipulate images without any input from the adults in the room.
The other issues that Nokia will face in the US are marketing related. No major carrier support until recently with the E71x at AT&T, and that is nominal support from a promotion point of view. And the other issue is brand promotion in general. You cannot spend 30 minutes in front of the television without seeing an iPhone or some variation of RIM, LG, HTC etc being advertised. Let's face the US image is everything and substance can be lost in the translation. Nokia had better be prepared to spend big bucks either directly or in co-op advertising funds if they expect to penetrate this market.
I can speak from painful experience that being an innovator and first to market with a technology only gets you somewhere if you can afford to create an effective marketing strategy that makes people aware of what you have and who you are.


Did you really need 6,056 words and a gazillion column inches to make your point?!?

You basically use all of the time and energy to rant against single reporter and one noteworthy publication. This view of the mobile industry is not just held by Olson and Forbes. There's much debate and discussion as to which handset makers / software developers / service providers have the vision of where the industry is headed and if they all are equipped to win the hearts and minds of consumers.

Your diatribe against Forbes must mean they make an argument that you do not agree with; that Nokia has and continues to squander any advantages they have in mobile handset development.

All of the reporting and quoting you single out are not necessarily factually incorrect, they're just an opinion based on research and interviewing. Could she have done a more thorough and complete job? Yes, definitely. Would Forbes have had the time, space, or inclination to give her 6,056 words and a gazillion column inches to make her point. NO

Admittedly this is your space and you can say what you want using however much space you want to use to say it.

This little comment is my space to do the same and I'll say this...

Try exercising a little more journalistic control and make your point without so many words and stop attacking a single source when media in general hold many of the same views.

245 words used here to make MY point


I couldn't agree more with Chad. Exactly what I wanted to say.

Harri Salminen

Thanks for this great article. As you wrote, Nokia has been (and still is) probably the best when it comes to adding new features to phones, just think about camera, keyboard, new cellular transmitters of different kinds, web browers, DVD-recording etc. They will solve the technical problems and use new technology, but is the end result really usable? Do people like to use the new solution, or are they more likely to stick whith the old way of doing things? I'm afraid that usually the first implementation of the new solution is acceptable only for hardcore nerds, but not for average users. Nokia does the dirty job, creates the new solution and makes the mistakes. Then other manufacturers follow and know how to do the trick and what to avoid - they make the solution usable.

I'd argue that less really would be more with Nokia. They should make the choice of the most important features and improve those with fresh thinking.

Rodrigo Mazzilli

Folks, Nokia is about hardware. Apple iPhone is about the software, the platform.
The mobile platform war takes place now on the OS level, on the best development environments.
As much as Nokia's Finnish fanboys try to say that Nokia is innovative by integrating a X megapixel camera, its smartphones have lacked the usability of Apple's. Apple simple but elegant SpringBoard is per se also an innovation. (if you don't know what the SpringBoard is, go do some research before criticizing Apple).

My father got a new E71 smartphone from Nokia. I am a computer scientist and it took me +30 min to configure the damn thing to work smoothly with wi-fi and configure email. And it turns out he does use the browser and email on that at all, because it's too difficult.

Innovation in mobile devices is NOT about supporting copy-paste or has a huge X megapixel camera. It's about user experience. And Apple is truly winning.
Watch this video and show me something equivalent from Nokia:

The Marketing Intern

To a lot of the commenters above of the Boro and Chad ilk, I think you're missing the point here. The point is that Forbes ran an article saying that Apple is an innovator in mobile devices. What Tomi is pointing out is that those "innovations" were often not the invention of Apple, and therefore they are NOT innovators in many respects. Tomi is not claiming that Nokia phones are better; he is simply stating that much of the technology present in the iPhone was present in Nokia smartphones long before the former implemented them. Whether or not this technology was usable is irrelevant - it existed first, which gives Nokia rights to the term "innovator." Apple, in these cases, isn't an innovator; it's a renovator.

Granted, this article is a little long, and the point could probably be made in 2,000 words. But the analysis is thorough, and I, for one, am thankful for it. Good on ya, Tomi.


Boro, you can call a whole bunch of people "Nokia fanboys", but YOUR comments REAK of Apple fanboyism.

"There is not ONE single feature in Nokia Symbian phones that is better than any on iPhone. Oh, right... the 46325 megapixel camera... Well, since I know something about photography - you only need a GOOD 3 Mpxl camera... It's about the chip size, not megapixels. For anything else, buy a digital camera."

If you "know something about photography", do you wanna have a go and dare say that the iPhone's CCD chip is "good" ?? Try. Also, funny that you should single out "Nokia SYMBIAN phones", becomes awfully convenient for winning points on your future posts, isn't it? Nokia's portfolio ranges from the absolute cheapest black & white, to the Vertu. And since the original Forbes article was about "Nokia having a Motorola moment", and not "Nokia vs. Apple" it's ridiculous to single out smartphones or Symbian phones just for the sake of being able to come back stronger with pro-Apple arguments.

Let me tell you, sure the iPhone has got a great OS, but I don't know a single person who prefers the iPhone to the Blackberry for business, and I don't know that many people who are knowledgeable in phones that find the iPhone a better value than say, an E71. (unless of course, you're a sold Apple fan, which you seem to be).

Don't get me wrong, i like the iPhone, but it's not the "Jesus phone".

Wanna talk about RIM, HTC, S-E or others? Know anything about them?

Tomi Ahonen

Hi all, I am just about to board a plane for 13 hours, i will respond to each of you here tomorrow when i have landed. Please do keep the comments coming and please come back tomorrow or Monday to see the responses and continue the dialog.

gotta rush they are calling my plane

Tomi Ahonen

Mobile Observer

You're a raging, frustrated Nokiatard which is understandable. The hardware era where Nokia sold loaded hardware used as dumb featurephones is over, now it's software and usability era and Nokia is clueless about it. The S60 V5 is a half-assed attempt to piggy back a touch layer on the UI fossil S60 with crap result.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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