Thoughts on Nokia

This blog started at the same time as my affair with the Palm Treo precursor. I bought a Nokia N-Gage in an emergency and thought I wasn't going to keep it, but I fell in love with it, despite all the serious problems with it. Since then I was a Nokia fan and bought a lot of phone including N-Series phones. All those phones were Symbian, there was a small Windows Phone interlude (first phone that could Skype), then I went back to the N-series until the touch crazed started. I've known that Nokia was toast for a while.

The problem with Nokia is that they couldn't execute a response to the iPhone and copycats. I don't know if they didn't know what to do or they didn't know how to do it. Their best bet would have been to get in the Android bandwagon early and produce smashing hits fast. Instead they went from strategy to strategy and release to release, without making a dent. Now, the have made a deal with Microsoft.

This deal is very good for Microsoft even if they have to pay billions for it. Put simply, if Nokia fails selling Windows Phones, doesn't mean Windows Phone fails, even if Windows Phone fails doesn't mean Microsoft fails. Don't get me wrong, despite being a Windows Phone 7 user since it came out, I think Microsoft has dropped the ball on Windows Phone in important ways. Lack of updates, lack of apps, lack of ads. Windows Phone 7 came out with promise and weaknesses. Microsoft has not improved it in three months. It doesn't have cut and paste, multitasking, custom ringtones. It has a serious defect of having only one volume control, so that if you lower the volume to hear music thru headphones and then disconnect the headphones you have, effectively, lowered the ringer volume to one you won't hear. It lacks a lot of apps that should have been there: where is Skype, Dropbox, Angry Birds? But more importantly it lacks communication of its features and promise. As with Zune and Xbox, Microsoft has a good product with a bad reputation. How do they managed that? I'll leave that to another blog post.

Because this post is about Nokia, and how bad this deal is for them. The first problem with this deal is that it is make or break for Nokia. The second is that, as pointed above, its partner can't perform at the required level. The third and more important problem is that Nokia can't perform at the required level. Nokia will try to compete using Symbian phones that less and less people want and Windows Phones that nobody has ever wanted with Apple, whose iPhone everybody wants, and Android, that more and more people are picking up. Furthermore, its competition also have Windows Phones (plus they have Android). Does Nokia thinks they will sell more Nokia Windows Phones than Samsung and HTC Android plus Windows Phones? That's nonsense! Even worse, the competition have phones out now! They are learning what people want and given them options while Nokia is given them pie plans in the sky.

What Nokia should do is stop announcing the future of its phones, it only manages to stop the sell of their current ones. They should also reduced their focus to a few phones: A cheap phone that costs nothing to make, a fashion, small phones that only make calls, and email phone with a good keyboard, and a touch phone with everything. The last one is the only one that needs to be a Windows Phone, since Nokia won't do Android, the others need to have good call quality, good design and small size. The problem is that Nokia needed these phones yesterday, but won't have any in a year. So, it is not competing with iPhone 4 and the Nexus S. It's competing with iPhone 5, rumors of the iPhone 6, and an iPhone nano that may be in the works, plus whatever Google, HTC, Samsung, and Motorola have planned for these future threats. By the time Nokia have the products in place it will have to shift its strategy again. It is this incapacity to respond fast that has doomed Nokia.

Come to think of it, it has doomed everybody. Only Apple seems to be capable of developing yearly products and quarterly updates without a hitch. Neither Microsoft, who can't come up with the updates, nor Google, who comes up with updates, but can't put the in their own phones! Apple has an ability that other companies can't muster. Why is it that the year old Nexus One doesn't have Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), while the year old iPhone 4 have had more than one update since Gingerbread was announced as ready. This is nothing but sheer incompetence. But Microsoft and Google will survive and, hence, get to have another chance at learning the obvious. Nokia, on the other hand, is in dire straits indeed.

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