Why Nokia Needs New Symbian OS in 2010

Nokia (s nok) today offered a rosy outlook for the mobile handset market in 2010, saying it expects industry volumes to grow by roughly 10 percent over 2009. The forecast the Finnish manufacturer gave for itself, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so optimistic. The company said at its Nokia Capital Markets Day in Helsinki that it expects its market share to be flat next year compared to 2009, although the average selling price of its devices may erode less in 2010 “compared to recent years.”

Nokia also said it plans to re-engineer its Symbian user interface — which has long been a serious vulnerability — and deliver two “major product milestones” in both the first and second half of next year. Nokia also said it plans to launch its first Maemo 6-powered mobile computer in the second half of 2009 and vowed to provide third-party developers with better tools for building apps for the company’s Ovi service. And, as EVP Tero Ojanperä told Om earlier this week, Nokia will continue to expand its services business and offer affordable, localized services to consumers in emerging markets.

While Nokia’s long-term prospects appear to hinge on its Maemo operating system, vast improvements to Symbian would go a long way toward boosting the company’s standing in the smartphone market over the next two years, according to a research note from RBC Capital Markets.

“Nokia is focused on improving the mobile device user experience and its dual approach on feature phones and smartphones,” RBC Managing Director Mark Sue noted. “A major revamped version of Symbian may accelerate Nokia’s competitiveness in the smartphone market, a market which has only become more competitive in recent years…Brand, volume and scale still remain Nokia’s strong points.”

Indeed, Nokia’s global footprint remains impressive, and the company seems to be learning from its many missteps over the last couple of years. If in 2010 it can bring an upgraded Symbian OS to as it continues to develop its Maemo platform, the guys from Espoo could find themselves back in the smartphone game in Europe and North America.