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« Is the 50 Billion mobile subscriber number feasible for this decade? | Main | Lets Talk About Mobile in Retail »

September 17, 2010

Comments

DipuK

One problem I see Nokia has is the issue of exclusivity/differentiation that some top end consumers seek.
if one says he has an iPhone, that says a lot about where he stands in the corporate-social ladder; financially, technologically etc.
But if one says I have a Nokia, the next question in which one? Its really hard for customers to immediately attach lots of characters that they would like to project to the naming convention that Nokia follows. All digits and sounds like some versions of war weapons or aircrafts. Nokia N8, C6, X2.
Perhaps they should lauch a sub-brand or use the Vertu brand to target high-end smartphone market, so that the users will be attracted by the instant recognition of the product.
I know many people who like to buy BB or Apple just because it makes them "cool". Nokia doesnt as Nokia makes from real dumphones to smartphones and its a multi-step process to make clear that which Nokia are we talking about.

SEO Traffic Spider

I'm glad to have visited your blog and good to know you! I find it interesting and informative.

Tomi Ahonen

First to all - It is our policy on this blog to respond to everybody. Give me a bit of time I will get to everyone. I will start in sets of 5 replies at a time. And pls keep the comments coming.

Hi don, Staska, Andy, DipuK, Frank

don - we agree, and we disagree.. Most of what you write I obviously totally agree. But you made a curious statement, that phones would never be used in business. That is obviously in line with my '30 second/30 minute' metaphor, but that only applies to those people who have both devices. The world has 5 billion people with 4 Billion mobile phone handsets in use today, vs only about 1.3 Billion personal computers. In Africa and poor parts of Asia like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc - the number of mobile phones used for internet access, outnumber PCs by 10 to 1. The 'business' use of mobile phones is already far bigger in the Emerging World than that of PCs. I am guessing you forgot about that part of the world. But there, the mobile phone (often mid-price featurephone, not even a smartphone) is the only computer that a business owner even has...

About your request to Nokia - I do know this blog is well read at Nokia HQ, so you can be sure your comment has already been well received inside Nokia about the orientation..

Staska - good points about Android and I agree with much of that. But the differenc betweeen Android vs Apple, is that Android is one of several rival OS's to Nokia's Symbian, where most of the money is NOT. Apple is the most profitable phone maker. So Apple iPhone is a totally different type of rival to Nokia than Android. But yes, we could also analyze the challenge that Android poses (and I have written about it extensively previously in the Smartphones bloodbath series of articles on this blog, as you know)

Andy - haha, I sense a bit of irony in your comment? It is true that most Nokia phones globally, have been quite well received and Nokia is rare in that its customer loyalty is above 50% meaning more than half of its current owners want the next phone also to be a Nokia branded phone (most of its rivals do not have this level of loyalty). But not every model has been a hit, and there are times Nokia has been late to the party.. And right now the flagship, N97 is woefully weak vs the current crop of top phones from most rivals.

DipuK - good points about NSN. I tend to agree, but its a tough call. And the new CEO will see the real internal numbers and near-future projections. The network infra business is not nearly as solid and profitable as the handset business is, so the discussion will have to be had (with the Board) about whether to divest NSN. I could see it going either way.

Frank - good points about Microsoft. No, I think thats pretty clear. The long-standing over-arching Nokia philosophy has been one of indsutry standards and cooperation. I am pretty sure, the new CEO had to establish a belief in that, before being even considered haha... There is no way Nokia could hold onto its global lead, if it did not 'play nice' with all rivals, else the carriers/operators would soon punish Nokia and shrink it in size (like they did in the early past decade with Club Nokia and side-loading sales of N-Gage).

Thank you all for writing. I will be back for more

Tomi Ahonen :-)

HCE

Tomi does not like us talking about profits but since he himself has mentioned the word "profit" around 40 times in his article, let me talk about them too.

Start with one fact - Nokia's profits have declined by a factor of 10 in the last couple of years. Now look at Tomi's statement - CEO of Nokia is the best job in hi-tech. Am I the only person who sees some massive cognitive dissonance here? Not that I am willing to write Nokia's obituary - far from it. They've still got a very large chunk of the smartphone market and they seem to have a mobile strategy that makes sense. However, they are a company at something of a crossroads. CEO of Nokia could become the best job in the world or could turn into a nightmare - depending how they execute during the transition they are currently in. Right now it is too early to tell which way this is going to go.

The other thing that completely befuddles me is Tomi's insistence that Apps are not important. If that is indeed the case then it completely contradicts Tomi's notion that CEO of Nokia is a great job to have. Apps are your only way of tying customers to your platform. If everything is going to be based on web services, that immediately levels the playing field. With the exception of Microsoft, everyone's browser is based on WebKit - so features added to one will automatically get added to another. I can switch from one platform to another without paying any price and it becomes a race to the bottom. The smartphone is a commodity, the platform is irrelevant. In this scenario, Nokia isn't Microsoft - it's Dell, it's Acer, it's one of a large number of companies trying to eke out reasonable profits by selling huge numbers of devices at wafer-thin margins. Is the CEO of such a company really the best job in the industry?

Let me say that the best-case scenario for Nokia is one in which Apps *do* matter and Nokia's Qt-based app strategy for Symbian^4 and MeeGo is a hit. *Now* there is a way of keeping customers tied to the Nokia platform - a surefire way of leveraging their current market share into a similarly large future market share. Maybe being the CEO of *this* company would indeed be the best job in the world.

What about economies of scale, you ask? True Nokia has great economies of scale. But what does it have that Samsung doesn't? Yes, due to the volumes in which it buys processors, RAM, flash, LCD screens etc it can get them at very low prices. Unfortunately for Nokia, Samsung is one of the biggest *manufacturers* of the above mentioned items. Can Nokia get lower prices than Samsung can? Apple presents a different problem. It may not make such huge numbers of devices but its model range is small and it ends up buying a huge quantity of all the items that it needs. Also - when it comes to flash, Apple buys far more than any other company. Thanks to sales of the iPod Touch and the iPad, it is also buying a ton of ARM processors - tremendous economies of scale there. If Nokia's bread-and-butter product becomes a commodity, it cannot rely on economies of scale to restore its lost profits. Others can play that game too - as Dell found out a few years ago.

Finally, what about the low end of the market where all the growth is supposed to be? That may very well be the case but what sort of growth is it going to be? Is there any value to selling huge numbers of devices which command zero owner loyalty at next to no profit? There is essentially no difference between such smartphones and commodity PCs. Mircosoft does well but the Dells and HPs do not. Sure, they may do well for a while but sooner or later an upstart like Acer comes along and the market leaders are in trouble. That is not, IMHO, where Nokia wants to be. Nokia wants the high end because that is where the profits are. Sure they want the low end as well but your notion that the high end does not matter as much is not something that IMHO is going to find many supporters at Nokia.

- HCE

KDT

@Tomi.

If it's true that Nokia's brand loyalty is at 50% as you claim, that's should be worrisome, not something to applaud.

Apple's brand loyalty is 90%+. What chance does Nokia have of capturing the high-profit Apple customer base? What chance does Apple have of capturing high-end Nokia customers?

arief

Tomi, nokiahas a big problem, they tend to love 'paperlaunch'. launch a phone today, available half year later.
the consument is tired of waiting.... where is n8? where is e5 that 'launch' on april??

Nasul

As brand loyalty goes, interviews and actions don't necessarily match. Some claim Apple's brand loyalty is 90%. Reality is 77% (http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/06/25/77-of-iphone-4-sales-were-upgrades/). If the 50% stated here is based on behaviour instead of interviews, then the difference is smaller, although still significant.

China wholesale

come on.. Tomi,you himself has mentioned the word "profit" around 40 times in his article, let me talk about them too.

Viipottaja

Tomi, you do realise that app stores are not about revenue? They are about sales of the hardware.

Troed Sångberg

(I saw this post in my reader way too late - but I'll comment anyway)

"So, all you you out there who are screaming for Nokia to shift now to Android. Get over it. It will never happen. Nokia has a robust and good mobile phones-optimized smartphone OS called Symbian, a fully open source OS supported by dozens of handset manufacturers. It also has a new OS coming up, called MeeGo, also open source, also supported by many manufacturers, but is now fresh and new, and Linux based. What more could you want?"

.. an OS and developer environment that attracts developers? Not just development houses, but individual developers making apps and services because they think it's simply fun?

http://www.mobilebusinessbriefing.com/apps/article/developer-survey-hints-at-android-and-web-based-apps-dominance

That was the reasoning behind my post "Speed of innovation" - http://blogs.sonyericsson.com/troedsangberg/speed-of-innovation/ - and while you could say that MeeGo would fit the requirements it's still a gamble that full HTML5 "apps" (I know you loathe the word, but let's at least use it as a moniker) will arrive in short enough time for the Mobile Internet Device (not smartphone!) users to experience a seamless shift.

I still believe the issue is clouded because we use the name "smartphone" to describe wildly different devices and use cases. There's a disruptive shift right in the middle there.

Tom E

Hi Tomi,

You've written a well thought out article on Nokia and the challenges facing Stephen Elop. I have been speaking with people with long standing relationships with Nokia. The general sentiment is where they went wrong was that they stopped being Nokia. They (Nokia) started to have their heads turned by Apple and their competitors rushing to come up with the iPhone killer.

But it's not all doom and gloom. They have a great legacy in dumb phones and will continue to have a substantial market share in the overall market. Emerging markets still rely on dumb phones because many people in those countries do not have credit cards to pay for apps. Nokia has a strong relationship with carriers in those emerging markets that can charge those users via PAYG.

If they can build on that success by offering semi-smart phones in those markets with increased margins, Nokia will have no problem regaining it's crown.

دردشة عراقية

thank u man

Jilles van Gurp

Disclaimer: I work for Nokia (as a software engineer) and any opinions are my own and not necessarily my employer's.

I think this is an excellent opinion piece that highlights many reasons why Nokia is still relevant but misses out on the largest one.

The mobile industry has transformed into an industry that is primarily driven by added value that comes from software (as opposed to hardware). In this industry, the only two vendors that are still in control of their own destiny (in terms of software added value) are Apple and Nokia (and to a much lesser extent RIM). All the other vendors are highly dependent on an external ecosystem of hardware and software providers that they largely don't control, provide, or contribute to and very minimal added value through their own software added value (e.g. HTC Sense). They are commodity component integrators. The value is mostly created by others.

There was a window of opportunity where Nokia had issues delivering enough added value in terms of software. Others benefited from this by delivering better software on the same hardware, thus compensating for the fact that Nokia consistently out-competes them on the hardware front in terms of price & execution. The current iphone and android market share peak is based 100% on the fact that OSX and Android are two very good software platforms that offer excellent added value.

That window of opportunity is now closing thanks to Nokia's investment in software quality over the past decade. Nokia's platforms (plural) are catching up and will soon start leading again in terms of added value. By leading I mean that you will see Nokia beat others to market with new, valuable software features. Symbian^3 is not lipstick on a pig but the result of extensive internal re-architecting that makes it ready for the next decade. Symbian^4 will complete the transformation by means of a future ready UI platform. And it won't be the last release either. Nokia has a strategy of continuing to invest in software improvements.

By design, Symbian will be able to go where Android and OSX can't right now: low end hardware. This means Nokia will be able to deliver the same added value as their competitors at a much lower price and in much larger volume. That's a killer proposition in a market that spans the globe. Meego on the other hand represents the best that open source can provide (i.e. is feature for feature highly competitive with any other mobile software platform available) and combines it with a strategy of compatibility and consistency that stretches from the very low end S40 phones all the way to the high end. This will stretch Nokia's ability to compete effectively from the very low end to the very high end and provides long term continuity when low end hardware becomes fast enough to run Meego and Linux finally evolves to being more competitive with Symbian in terms of e.g. power management. All this means that Nokia will be able to introduce new features (added value) at the high end and then capitalize on them by providing the same features at increasingly lower price points, thus milking the investment all the way to the low end.

Long term, I believe most of the contenders in the current market won't survive because they lack credible hardware and software strategies to keep up. People tend to forget that in the open source world the active contributors dominate. Nokia is a very active contributor to Meego and Linux, and shares many of its components with Android. Probably Nokia is the largest contributor to open source among mobile vendors.

In other words, the market is evolving such that most other mobile vendors are going to be highly dependent on continued Nokia R&D investment in open source to allow them to provide added value. Depending on Google and Nokia to deliver the software added value is not a business plan for an independent vendor.

That's a very interesting position to be in for Nokia and I'm sure our new CEO, who has a background in the software industry, will be able to make the most of it. It's not a strategy that is free of risk of course. Apple continues to have a strong software strategy and they have been executing extremely well. Google has a very interesting, game changing strategy. But fundamentally, they do Android to expand into the mobile space with their service offerings and not to enter the market as a phone vendor.

Nokia will be highly dependent on executing well enough such that it can reap the rewards of its software investments before they turn into commodities. But that's just part of the new game in this industry, which is delivering added value through software. As Tomi notes, Nokia is in fact in quite good shape from operational point of view and has plenty of reason to be optimistic.

zunguri

Thank you! I haven't laughed so hard in weeks! This is the kind of brain-damaged analysis that has guided Nokia decisions and left it where it is sliding today. I can't wait to hear how you explain the 2010 share loss data, especially India.

Finns made Nokia and have ruined it. Maybe a Canadian who understands how important that 285M market is can fix the company before the stock price drops enough for a Chinese firm to buy it just for the brand value.

- Mikko

First of all I'd like to remind you that Nokia have already a luxury brand called Vertu. And in any case if it's sold in millions (like iPhones), it can't be real luxury. At least in a way I see it. But in fact I feel Nokia should have an own brand for future Meego phones. Or at least let it please be something else than model types which look like a sample of chess move! Finnish language have beautiful names like Multia and Luvia which would sound like a proper canditates to me. (OK, there are also monsters like Äkäslompolo, Jyväskylä and Uusikaupunki...)

But. I think the future of Nokia is somewhere in it's services. Ovi is a step into a right direction. Chinese manufacturers surely can sell cheap phones but with a service like Nokia Money it's harder to lock in customers to Nokia brand. And think what potential lies in customer base of Nokia Ovi globally? I think Mr. Elop will be amazed how scarcely resourced its internet unit is...

Florida web design

Thanks for the review of Nokia, and it will be interesting to see how it tackles the future with Stephen Elop at the helm.

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Hello.I am well into a boring sunday thanks for giving something to think about.This is a great story got me thinking,Thanks!.

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Je lisais quelque chose d'autre à ce sujet sur un autre blog. Intéressant. Votre position sur elle est diamétralement contredit ce que j'ai lu plus t?t. Je suis encore contempler sur les points de vue opposés, mais je suis à bout fortement vers le v?tre. Et peu importe, c'est ce qui est si grande sur la démocratie moderne et le marché de la pensée en ligne.

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Helsinki but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit www.tomiahonen.com Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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