Despite the fact that the Nokia (NYSE: NOK) sells a phone every 18 seconds, the Finnish phone manufacturer doesn’t get much respect in Silicon Valley, Forbes reports today. The publication observed these feelings at a July conference organized by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, who said: “I believe that Nokia and Symbian are irrelevant companies at this point.” In defense, David Rivas, a Nokia vp in charge of its smart phone software efforts, said: “You’re ignoring Japan, you’re ignoring Korea. The statement that somehow the Web has not been mobile until the iPhone is absurd and back to the point about parochialism.” To add injury to insult, an audience heckler yelled at Rivas: “Wake up!”
So, what do you think? To discount Nokia seems like a mistake, but at the same time, the question is an interesting one: Will the mobile Web be owned by Internet giants like Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), or even Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), or will incumbent mobile companies, such as Nokia or even Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC), do the better job? Who’s correct? The iPhone and BlackBerry touting VCs, startup execs and bloggers, or the likes of Nokia?
It’s undeniable that Nokia has been a phone manufacturer for decades, not a software company. But Nokia’s a year into a massive transformation. It wants to own the mobile experience on the phone, not just the phone. It has made investments in everything from music to file-sharing to advertising. It’s also purchased Symbian, the mobile operating system, which it intends to give away and make open source. Meanwhile, it’s hard to not look at RIM’s (NSDQ: RIMM) Blackberry, Apple’s iPhone, or even Google’s Android as worthy efforts, given those companies’ track-records in Internet and software applications vs. Nokia’s background in manufacturing. In an attempt to clear up the matter, Forbes reported a number of races in which the iPhone’s software appears to win. Research firm Perceptive Sciences asked 10 people to send e-mails from an iPhone and an N95. On average, the users took two and a half minutes on the iPhone and twice as long on the N95. Only half of the people could even manage to send an e-mail on the N95. In a separate race, more than 80 percent of iPhone owners use its Web browser, compared with 60 percent of Nokia N95 users, according to M:Metrics, which also reported that the iPhone is used more often for social networking, maps, applications and listening to music, whereas the N95 only beat out the iPhone when it came to watching video.
Clearly, there isn’t a winner yet. Improvements can be made on all sides. An email shouldn’t take two and a half minutes to send, and from most accounts, the iPhone still has to work on keeping a connection while during a call. Who are you placing your bet on?