Nokia’s Signs Of Life: A China Deal; A Content Deal; And A Show


Bit by bit, we are starting to get a better idea of what Nokia (NYSE: NOK) plans to do to reassert itself in the mobile phone market in the months ahead. In the past few days, we’ve learned of an operator partnership with China Mobile; a new focus at a big trade show, MWC in Barcelona; and, today, publishing app deal with Polar Mobile that gives the company a content boost across all its platforms.

China Mobile. Last week, Nokia said that it planned to put more effort on operator partnerships — rather than direct sales — in its fightback strategy in the U.S. It looks like this might also be the template in other markets, too — specifically China, where according to IDG News EVP of sales Colin Giles, who is based there, announced that the company would be partnering with China Mobile to sell its new Windows Phone handsets.

This is the first operator partnership that Nokia has announced for the devices — and going to China first is a sign of where the company wants to focus, and where it knows it will have to work hard to maintain its market share in the face of competition from Android handset makers and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL).

This move follows announcements earlier this year from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) that it would be providing Chinese language support as part of its Mango update to the OS. The devices will be running on the TD-SCDMA standard, a homegrown 3G standard that is not compatible with those used in Europe and the U.S.

Polar Mobile. This deal, announced today, is about adding more content to the Nokia’s new platform. Today, the Canada-based app developers Polar Mobile announced that it has signed a deal to distribute 300 of its apps — it has developed around 1,200 for a range of publishers, including several magazines from the Conde Nast stable, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Time (NYSE: TWX) and the Shanghai Daily — for Nokia’s new Windows Phone devices, as well as its Symbian and MeeGo N9 handsets. It’s a small step, but one in the right direction as the company looks to lure users to its platform away from app-rich Android and iOS platforms.

Barcelona. Possibly less significant but another sign of the company’s intent to come out fighting with its new strategy… Nokia has always had a presence at the Mobile World Congress, but for the past couple of years a lot of that has been focused off-site. This year, the company is returning to the main event. This coming February, the company will be exhibiting on the main show floor, with a mammoth stand not in one of the bigger halls of vendors and handset makers but at App Planet. (Last year, both HP (NYSE: HPQ) and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) exhibited in this hall; other handset makers were based at the more central exhibition spaces. Nokia’s only stand presence was a smallish affair dedicated to Qt.)

According to Nokia spokesman Mark Squires, Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, will also keynote at the 2012 event. In 2011, he made no less than three public appearances, although none of them an actual keynote: once the night before the show began to an audience of journalists; once as a surprise guest of Steve Ballmer; and once finally in his own slot on the main stage.

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