Amidst a major leadership change of naming Stephen Elop its new president and CEO, Nokia is hosting its annual Nokia World event in London, England next week. I’ll be attending the two-day Nokia (s nok) event, which has a jam-packed agenda filled with keynotes, workshops and discussion groups. Aside from the great conversations with key Nokia executives, developers and other mobile mavens, I’m looking forward to seeing Nokia use the event as a platform for the next steps in its mobile strategy. Here’s what I’m expecting to see, hear and report back from the scene:
Time with Nokia’s N8, E7 and C7
The N8, announced in April, C7 and rumored E7 devices are Nokia’s first with the new Symbian^3 operating system. I’ve always felt Nokia makes great hardware, but I’ll likely focus on the software experience if given a chance to use these handsets. While competitors honed the touch-screen user interfaces, Nokia’s use of S60 hasn’t quite kept up, and Symbian^3 is supposed to be the answer to that problem. Aside from my own hands-on thoughts, I’ll be looking for Nokia to demonstrate the benefits brought by Symbian^3 for the N8, C7 and other future smartphones they want to show off next week.
Although the event agenda doesn’t have any speakers from Intel (intc), I’m hoping to hear much more about MeeGo, the joint platform effort between Nokia and Intel (s intc). This mobile operating system is targeted squarely at the highest of high-end smartphones for Nokia. In a recent phone conversation about MeeGo, Nokia’s Executive VP of Markets Niklas Savander admitted to me that “We (Nokia) do not have the right high-end offerings now.” Nokia intends for MeeGo devices to fill that gap, but until the first device is announced, it’s a wait-and-see game. Nokia World is a perfect time for the first MeeGo handset(s) to be introduced.
Cracking the code for success
In addition to business and product updates, Nokia World also hosts a developer summit. I’ll be looking to engage programmers to hear what’s right and what’s wrong with Nokia’s Ovi store. Speaking with developers will potentially provide a completely different perspective on Nokia’s overall mobile strategy. These are the folks that see early signs of where Symbian and MeeGo are headed, and they also have insights on user experience with the platforms and services that Nokia offer. In particular, I’ll be keen to hear from coders using Qt, Nokia’s cross-platform development framework, to learn how it compares to the tools used to create software for iOS (s aapl), Android (s goog), and BlackBerry (s rimm) devices.
Since Nokia is clearly trying to create value-add services and revenue opportunities with Ovi, I want to gain a better understanding of how the company plans to do so and with what products. Based on my limited experience, I haven’t found Ovi to be very cohesive across Nokia’s many hardware offerings. The Ovi store is doing well in emerging markets, but that may not be enough to maintain momentum. The same store or service on one phone is either not available or noticeably different on another. This lack of consistency can put off consumers and hold back sales by confusing potential customers with a dizzying array of choice. I’ll be looking for a clearer picture of Ovi and how Nokia plans to bring focus to the brand of services.
It could be that Nokia has a few good tricks up its sleeve and will use Nokia World to make some magic. I’m thinking of things like the introduction of a MeeGo-powered netbook or tablet, for example, or perhaps the announcement of strong U.S. carrier support and subsidies for upcoming Symbian^3 smartphones. The odds of such surprises are slim, but a positive surprise could boost impressions of Nokia’s future.
That’s my quick take of what Nokia World may bring, and if it pans out as expected, I may have more optimism for the company’s overall strategy. Positive thoughts right now may remove some of the sting brought by today’s latest Gartner (s it) prediction. The firm expects that Google Android will challenge Nokia’s Symbian for the top platform spot by 2014, which is two years earlier than previously forecast.
While I pack and prepare for the international flight, let me know what you expect to see and hear from Nokia next week, and be sure to tune in for coverage from the event!
Related research report from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):