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Summary:

I was swapping tweets yesterday with Michael Gartenberg, a respected gadget analyst who attended Nokia World, the Nokia-sponsored lovefest held this week in Stuttgart, Germany, and it was clear he was feeling underwhelmed. Understandably so. I didn’t have to fly to Germany to figure out that […]

Nokia_N97_mini_3_lowres.jpgI was swapping tweets yesterday with Michael Gartenberg, a respected gadget analyst who attended Nokia World, the Nokia-sponsored lovefest held this week in Stuttgart, Germany, and it was clear he was feeling underwhelmed. Understandably so. I didn’t have to fly to Germany to figure out that Nokia is on a slippery, muddy slope with the rain coming down hard overhead, but I’m waiting for Gartenberg to pen his thoughts all the same. In the interim, let’s chew on the sheer number of OS platforms Nokia says it’s going to support.

  • Symbian for its cell phones.
  • Windows 7 for its netbooks. (It calls them “booklets.”)
  • Maemo Linux for mobile computing devices such as the N900.

Jonas Geust, vice president of the Nokia N-series division, told the Taiwanese publication Digitimes that “Nokia has enough platform diversity in its products and there is no need for Nokia to adopt any more operating systems.” For heaven’s sake, the company shouldn’t even be thinking about more operating systems — not unless it gets its house in order.

Maemo-based Internet tablets have sold fewer units than the U.S. has scored runs in international cricket. And when it comes to the high-end, aka the most profitable, segment of the phone business, Nokia is under attack. Yet in response, all the company did was come out with a mini version of its high-end phone, the N97, which wasn’t selling terribly well to begin with. As for those booklets, well, they’re going to be competing with the Asian computer makers in a market where margins are less than 5 percent. Good luck selling a booklet for $810 a pop.

My only question is, how are the developers that are Nokia loyalists going to deal with all those platforms? Thoughts?

  1. At this rate Nokia will soon end up producing the low end phones for third world countries. ( No offence).
    It can stop even thinking of being a player in the smartphone arena. N97 was such a shock. How could such a product ever end up with the end user?

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    1. Do you actually believe that in the 3rd world countries people still talk using Nokia 1100s? Have you read Sarah Lacy’s post comments over TC?(you ain’t Sarah Lacy right?)

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  2. Hey Om,

    I’m not sure the N97 isn’t selling well. I read differently into the numbers that Nokia put out. As for supporting multiple platforms, I agree it looks a little thinly spread, but for developers, in the long term, Nokia is banking on its purchase of qt, the cross platform development tool.
    http://qt.nokia.com/products/

    World-wide Nokia has everything to lose as the leader in the space. But whatever we think of its aging S60 UI etc. it’s still resonating with consumers here in the UK, for example.

    - Steve

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    1. Steve

      They said $2 million units in 3 months. versus about 3.79 million units sold for iPhone in Q2 2009 or 666,000 Nokia N97s per month versus roughly 1.25 million/month iPhones. Blackberry added about 3.8 million net new users in their fiscal Q1 2010. So whichever way you look at it, things aren’t looking as hot for N97.

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      1. I don’t know, having one model among dozens that is selling at half the rate of iPhone does not sound all that bad to me. Any idea what sales are across entire Nokia smart phone line? Also, what is installed base? If I bought an N96 last year, it may be harder to sell me an N97.

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      2. Why does Nokia have to have any one model match the only model Apple sells. Considering they outsell Apple across their entire S60 line by such a huge margin I don’t see such a problem.

        And as mentioned, once QT, Python, and the web runtime is across all their platforms what difference does the underlying operating system make?

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    2. Thanks for the clarification Om.

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  3. Nice article and I believe you are right about a number of problems, however to answer your last question regarding how developers for Nokia devices are going to cope with all those platforms, I believe the answer is using Qt, a product that Nokia aquired from the Norwegian company Trolltech when it bought them last year. Qt already runs on embedded Linux, X11 and Windows, and I believe they are porting it to S60, so just a matter of time and developers will be able to write their apps once and deploy on all the mentioned platforms.

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  4. Sadly, the E71 will be our last Nokia phone. Until Google came along, Nokia was the only cellphone maker that knew how to spell S-I-P much less implement it on a phone. So, wouldn’t you know, Nokia has decided to get out of the SIP business. Kinda reminds me of Ford. 99.9% of the police vehicles in the U.S. are Crown Victoria’s. Municipalities bought them rain or shine, recession or not. So guess which model car Ford decided to stop manufacturing? Just makes you wonder what the people steering these companies are smoking, doesn’t it?

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  5. I agree with the assessment. Windows is a bizarre choice, and I would have rather seen a larger Maemo tablet. Maemo is interesting, and they have finally made the UI more friendly and sophisticated. A mobile web perspective from top to bottom would be the best choice for Nokia. This would allow for a rational development path across devices.

    The Netbook may sell well particularly packaged through AT&T and such. It gives Nokia a decidedly automobile like product line. Perhaps not the best metaphor! Sadly, it is all confused, but as a developer, I am interested in the N900 and potential future products like it. That would be my choice as a development path.

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  6. Its the same, tired story. The competitive landscape has changed, and Nokia just doesn’t have the make-up to ride this wave. Innovators Dilemma anybody?

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  7. This is an odd article because it doesn’t mention Qt or the N900 or the fact that the N97 has sold pretty well considering what a mediocre phone it is.

    Everyone said the problem with Nokia is the Symbian UI and now they have come up with the Maemo UI for the N900 (which is a phone you know and not an internet tablet). Nokia folks are walking around Espoo looking pretty pleased with themselves, which is in stark contrast to the miserable faces we’ve been seeing for the last couple of years.

    If they can sell 10m N97s in a few months just see how many N900s they will sell – because it is a beautiful phone. The Apple cultists won’t buy it of course but everyone else will. Nokia is very much back in the smartphone game.

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    1. The whole “fanboy” thing is getting old already, but if that what makes for an argument, feel free to discount your opinion by the mention. First, Maemo is cool, but it is not Nokia’s primary OS, nor has it been incredibly sophisticated. I played with this for some years, and while I felt that the Linux direction is interesting and potentially valuable, it is only so as THE primary OS with a rational development path. It never helped that until the N900, which is actually still the future, Nokia hobbled the tablets with low powered processors. They mostly were not even phones.

      The new OVI stuff looks cool, and as an Apple developer, I look forward to other options. Android is not there. The Palm WebOS is limited. And, RIM is impossible. Nokia still has a clean shot with an effort. But, my opinion remains that a Chrome like perspective across all profiles will be the only way to compete in a year. Imagine that Apple comes out with a cheaper device, and that it runs Mobile Safari and is limited to widgets. Bam, there goes the mid end market with only two development profiles, and a possible tablet in the future.

      Call that Apple fanboy, but I am pretty pissed at Apple. I also stated a half dozen years ago that Apple should develop a mobile OS based on OS X with a simplified UI. It is simply where things should go, and the NeXT development tools allowed for rapid development. Now things at the global scale should go towards web interfaces like WebKit with the ability to run full apps at the high-end. These are going to be our desktops in another 5 years, so there is plenty of opportunity, but Nokia isn’t really doing it yet.

      And, if Nokia lets me mess with OVI, I may buy an N900! I think that it is very cool.

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  8. Hi,

    Isn’t the whole point of the way that Nokia is structured, and the way they have these multiple platforms, so that they can cater to multiple niches (slice and dice the market), and in the interim, until the market definitively coalesces around specific OS’s in the future, the customer can decide what their needs are.

    Also, it’s somewhat naive to not realise that while Nokia might have a slightly higher manufacturing cost then some asian manufacturers, and the Maemo tablets are still early entries, just like the RazR was for Apple, Nokia will still be making a fat margin, with its efficient manufacturing bases – for goodness sake, if it’s able to make profits on low cost mobile phones, the idea that, in time, it can’t make a decent margin on a sub-$180 tablet (not to forget the various baked-in ancillary services/revenues)!

    Kind regards,

    Shakir Razak

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  9. I used to make nokia phones for a living, there were constant design problems from the start and most people who made them never owned one.

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  10. Om,
    Some one has to give up among ( RIMM, APPLE, PALM, WinMo, Andriod and Nokia) on the operating system. The best for Nokia is to tie up with Google and start making hundreds of models.

    If you leave APPLE aside, WinMo and RIMM have money to stay longer.
    Google makes money on something else to spend on Andriod.
    That leaves Nokia and PALM.
    But PALM came out with all new WebOS.

    My 2 cents , Nokia should either buy PALM or team up with Google.
    Partnering with Microsoft will not get them anywhere.

    The following should be done ( of course anything can change) based on their current offerings.

    Take out Windows 7 , drop Android or Maemo on those tablets.
    Decommission Symbian.
    Cut down hundreds of models.

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