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Nokia Needs to Step on the Symbian 3 Gas Pedal

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It used to be that I’d see a new Nokia handset launched every few days — at least it felt that way — but lately, that pace appears to have slowed. The company released three new social networking-focused devices earlier this month, but my perception is that Nokia is currently focused more on software over hardware. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, as Nokia has plenty of handset models to peddle. Even with this perceived focus shift, however, Nokia can’t get its new Symbian 3 platform out the door fast enough to square off against increased competition.

The company offered a peek of Symbian 3 in February of this year — see the video demo below — and said phones built atop of it would ship in the third quarter of this year. Nokia isn’t late from a delivery perspective, but unfortunately, new iPhone 4.0 (s aapl) hardware is expected in June or July, Google (s goog) is poised to launch Android 2.2 as early as the company’s I/O conference next month and Research in Motion (s rimm) has an operating system refresh in the works. So the only major smartphone platform that Nokia will beat to market with certainty — pending any internal delays, of course — is Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 (s msft), which is slated to arrive in time for the holidays.

Aside from the fast-paced platform changes, I agree with Larry Dignan of ZDNet who today writes that: “Companies like Apple and Research in Motion are touting big gains in international sales, notably China. Nokia is dominant in most regions, but the competition will increase.” Indeed, over the past six months, Apple sales topped $1.2 billion in China while iPhone sales alone jumped 474 percent in the Asia-Pacific region.

Facing that growth from a competitor in a huge international market while other challengers are updating their own platforms, Nokia needs to get Symbian out the door in a hurry. Om probably underscores my concern best when discussing the new operating system in his interview with Nokia Chairman, CEO and President Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo: “I’m not holding my breath, however, mostly because I think the guys at Apple and Android are innovating at Internet speed.” The market is moving faster than Nokia is right now. Once Symbian 3 arrives, we’ll know for sure if Nokia has leapfrogged the competition, only just caught up or is still a few steps behind.

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6 Responses to “Nokia Needs to Step on the Symbian 3 Gas Pedal”

  1. Ouch. Why should anyone get excited by an operating system like this that delivers the same basic ideas for a cell phone interface that Apple devised four years ago? What’s the point? I’m supposed to buy into this derivative system, but without the iPhone ecosystem of innovative Apps and peripherals? Tell me they have something more, something original and groundbreaking. Like Microsoft, Nokia’s time has passed.

  2. Grzegorz Daniluk

    In February Nokia showed “design preview”. Which looks a bit like … Flash presentation :-) In contrast Microsoft showed real software. Hence I guess that Microsoft should deliver first. Not Nokia.

    However if Symbian 3 is just a face lifted software, then delivery in the third quarter of this year is possible.

  3. Hopefully the delay is because they are making sure their Symbian^3 device is all that it needs to be. I’m sure hardware wise it will have great specifications but the forward and backward compatibility of Symbian^3 (all existing Symbian apps plus QT) as well as the desire to have an intuitive and robust user experience is a huge challenge. Better they get it right than push it out and try to correct it with firmware updates. There are over 300,000 QT developers so if they get all the basics right, the apps will come.

  4. sfmitch

    I actually think Nokia has the time to do it right the first time.

    While Nokia has had no success in US, it just released results (smartphone shipments up over 50% YOY) that show the sky is not falling on Nokia.

    Bringing out Symbian 3 fast but non-polished would be a mistake. Better to make sure they when they deliver, Symbian 3 is great.

    • I tend to agree. Nokia should move fast, but they need to get this right before just getting it out the door.

      They have the most mobile phone sales in the world, by far. They are everywhere (except the US, essentially). So, they have the distribution, the carrier relationships, the name recognition, the infrastructure services.

      I believe the world is transitioning from 4 billion mobile phones to 4 billion smartphones. If Nokia’s newest smartphone OS is solid, they can get a good share of that. If not, they probably are forever consigned to second tier status, at best.