17 Comments

Summary:

Nokia’s N8 smartphone is slightly delayed, as customers are now expecting the Symbian^3 device to arrive in October while Nokia “makes amends.” The situation illustrates that managing expectations for a near-global audience may be a bigger a challenge for Nokia than developing competitive products and services.

nokia-n8-featured

Nokia’s N8 touchscreen smartphone was expected to arrive in customer hands in September, but now the company says it plans to ship orders this month, with deliveries to customers delayed to October. Rumors of shipment delays began yesterday, with the following comment attributed to Nokia: “To ensure a great user experience, we have decided to hold the shipments for a few weeks to do some final amends.” Today, an official Nokia blog post clarifies by saying that N8 pre-orders were indeed targeted for September, but the company has advised those customers to expect their smartphone next month. While a number of factors could be at play, the N8 delay illustrates that managing expectations for a near-global audience is as big a challenge for Nokia as developing competitive products and services.

While no tech player is immune from product delays — customers still can’t order that white iPhone 4, for example — Nokia’s sheer size and breadth of product line complicates matters. The handset maker offers products in nearly 200 countries and I’ve simply lost count of  how many different phone models Nokia makes. Nokia’s global product offerings are both its biggest strength and its greatest weakness because of the massive effort it must take to coordinate hardware, software, services and logistics. For a product like the N8 that was shown off and introduced back in April, this challenge shows.

Indeed, when I spoke to Anssi Vanjoki — Nokia’s executive VP and head of Mobile Solutions — at the Nokia World event last week, he touched upon such challenges, possibly inadvertently. “The Nokia N8 is the dream I realized four years ago,” he told me. The handset might indeed be the best smartphone on the planet, but I circled back to the timeframe Vanjoki mentioned, and asked if “four years” sounded like a problem to him. He candidly admitted that the company often moves too slowly, and vaguely alluded to internal logistics and organizational politics as issues, but provided no further details.

Like its competitors in the mobile handset market, Nokia faces many of the same challenges: developing and maturing the platform, managing component shortages, and creating a compelling ecosystem. By scaling up the company and product offerings, however, Nokia adds layers of organizational complexities that stack the odds against its success. Put another way: Managing the many moving parts at Nokia slows it down and makes it less likely that one cohesive strategy will be achieved. Forgetting its vast array of hardware choices, you can simply look at the many current software platforms Nokia is trying to manage: S40, Symbian S60, Symbian^3, and soon, MeeGo.

The problem is that Nokia has been taking a backseat to smartphones running Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platforms for the past two to three years, so the company faces what appears to be a “no-win” situation when it comes to the N8 delay. It can either rush a nearly-complete product to market, or it can make the product right and not meet delivery expectations. In a market where product cycles are now often measured in months, not years, that’s a bigger problem than producing smartphones that don’t quite measure up to the competition.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Mobile OSes Are No Longer Just About Mobile
It’s Time for Nokia to Embrace Android
Nokia’s Tie-Up With Microsoft Won’t Help

  1. I don’t get this one. All the advertising material for the N8 – on billboards, bus shelters, the lot – says it’s coming in October in the UK.

    This story appears to be coming from one e-mail that apparently has no real credence and yet the stock is down and the usual news outlets are painting pictures of woe. Doesn’t anyone use their eyes or brains any more?

    Share
    1. Mark, Nokia’s original pre-order page listed availability as “end of September” so people aren’t making the date up. And Nokia’s official statement today (linked in the post) confirms a small and unexpected delay.

      Having said that, I don’t think a delivery delay of a few weeks is the news, but it illustrates the challenge that Nokia is creating for itself based on the array of product offerings and the size of the company.

      Share
      1. A delivery delay of a few weeks is not catastrophic even though some people try hard to draw more meaning than warranted. Just imagine what hell Nokia would go through if they were ever confronted with an antenna-gate – and look how smoothly Apple waxed it over (in comparison).

        The point is: Perception is reality, perhaps the only one.

        Nokia is not perceived to be cool. Apple cannot be perceived to be “uncool”. This is the real war that Nokia faces. A few weeks of delays on a product, the choice of an OS, the hiring of a new CEO, heck – every damn thing they do is in an attempt to get cool.

        My plea to GigaOm : Judge Nokia not on their coolness (that’s what the common man would do), but on the solidity (or lack thereof) of their offerings.

        Share
      2. Kevin, the end of September is October. That’s kind of the point.

        Nokia UK’s site has switched to end Octobe rbecause the first batch has sold out. Demand is a lot higher than anticipated.

        Which, of course, doesn’t bode well for Android outside the US.

        Share
      3. I am not sure about the size being an impediment, but I am positive that the thought process is a major hindrance at Nokia. Vanjoki’s recent statement about “peeing in the pants” seems completely baseless and is a reflection of how the top management is separated from the ground realities.

        I hope the recent changes at Nokia bring about the much needed change in thought process at the top.

        Share
  2. Nokia is for fish eating Europeans. Who cares about them? Not me.

    Share
  3. I never think of a company as big as Nokia as being nimble. The supply side is something that I can see as being very difficult with the number of devices they wish to ship. I wonder how many months in advance they have to put in orders for parts and schedule for assembly so that the millions of phones can come out. But as long as the N8 has been delayed, as long as it comes out right…that is better than having it come out quickly and with problems.

    Share
  4. Everyone was blown out of the water by Apple’s iPhone. The world’s first multitouch phone with intertial scrolling. That was why it was revolutionary.

    The iPhone was released in January 2007. So we are almost at the 4-year anniversary. 4 years.

    In that 4 years, neither Nokia nor Microsoft have managed to produce a product to counter it. Google was relatively nimble, announcing Android in November 2007, and having a product on the market in October 2008.

    Nokia has the most interesting strategy of all. It does not have too many platforms. S40 and S60 are just legacy and will soon disappear. That leaves Symbian^3 and MeeGo.

    Microsoft made the critical strategic error of making Windows Phone 7 a very closed platform, aping iPhone. But iPhone only got away with it because of its first-mover advantage. I don’t believe anyone can follow with that closed platform approach.

    Everything Nokia is doing is open-source. I give MeeGo a chance, because it will be the only major-backed mobile operating system that is licensed under the GPL. This will give it some popularity. It’s worth a shot.

    The only other alternative is to go down the path of hardware commoditization with Android. I can see why Nokia wants to give MeeGo a go. It can easily return to Android later if all else fails.

    Share
  5. Everyone was blown out of the water by Apple’s iPhone. The world’s first multitouch phone with intertial scrolling. That was why it was revolutionary.

    The iPhone was released in January 2007. So we are almost at the 4-year anniversary. 4 years.

    In that 4 years, neither Nokia nor Microsoft have managed to produce a product to counter it. Google was relatively nimble, announcing Android in November 2007, and having a product on the market in October 2008.

    Nokia has the most interesting strategy of all. Not too many platforms. S40 and S60 are just legacy and will soon disappear. That leaves Symbian^3 and MeeGo.

    Microsoft made the critical strategic error of making Windows Phone 7 a very closed platform, aping iPhone. But iPhone only got away with it because of its first-mover advantage. I don’t believe anyone can follow with that closed platform approach.

    Everything Nokia is doing is open-source. I give MeeGo a chance, because it will be the only major-backed mobile operating system that is licensed under the GPL. This will give it some popularity. It’s worth a shot.

    The only other alternative is to go down the path of hardware commoditization with Android. I can see why Nokia wants to give MeeGo a go. It can easily return to Android later if all else fails.

    Share
    1. Actually I think they bought Android back in 2005, a couple of years BEFORE the iPhone OS was unleashed !

      Google is not THAT nimble but certainly they are more responsive than a Nokia.

      With Apple’s cloak of secrecy I hope they got another iPhone type device hidden in the deep dark depths of Steve’s high tech laboratories somewhere in Cupertino that will rock our world AGAIN ! :-)

      Share
      1. Google utterly failed with their own branded phone. They have been relegated to an OS provider and even that cannot be supplied in consistent versions nor is the base UI good enough for its most popular handsets.

        I would be a lot more worried if I was Google than if I was Nokia.

        Share
  6. Rockstar Developer Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Yepper they sure seem like a slow moving barge in the river that keeps getting stuck in the mud (like Mississippi Mud).

    Perhaps they should create some smaller development pods and release them from the mothership so they can innovate at the speed of light without 10 layers of admin on their shoulders. Release them and set them free. Of course they should be allowed to get necessary nourishment from the mothership’s ample bosoms from time to time. This would be a much healthier environment for internal developers and would foster faster innovation to stem the ferocious onslaught from those pesky iOS4 and Android campers.

    One thing is for darn sure, they must change their ways and the sooner the better before they completely erode their leading marketshare. Changing leadership is a good start with some serious re-org to follow.

    Share
  7. I thought the word NOKIA is Finnish for BIG FAT WHALE in this case a beached whale stuffed to the blow hole, you know the feeling right after you just ate the biggest meal in your life having to loosen your belt before you upchuck and you can barely outpace a 100 year old turtle across the room. This is gut check that Nokia is going thru and it will take some time to cleanse their gluttonous body of its lazy ways and get back into fighting shape. They can get back in shape to better compete but do they have enough time?

    Share
  8. That’s gonna be the rush in the mobile industry! New Nokia, I guess, has no equivalents or rivals! Expecting for the N8

    Share
  9. Kevin-
    Congrats on being quoted in “The Week”. I hope you know that you were quoted.

    Share
  10. Faisal Al Hossain Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    I want nokia n-8.But nokia is not care about thair castomar.They are responsable for our’s suffering.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post