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A study in contrast: Apple and Nokia

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 22, 2009

The April – June 2009 quarter results for Apple and Nokia are the literal “study in contrasts”!

Apple versus Nokia

The numbers do justice to the sentiment towards both these companies at this time. Apple is clearly shinning bright and is the toast of the bourses.

Ref: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124821056118269783.html; http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2009/07/21results.html; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124820913514969595.html; http://industry.bnet.com/technology/10002677/can-anyone-out-app-apple/

Even the staunchest critic would not count out Nokia but it surely seems that Nokia has lost its way in the Smartphone race and needs to retrospect its strategies and approach to user experience. N 97, which was being touted as the most advanced multimedia computer has failed to impress and unless, one is  die hard Symbian S60 fan, there is very little reason one would opt for the N 97. With no other significant touch screens from Nokia at the moment, there is nothing that customers and investors are looking forward to from Nokia. http://gizmodo.com/5308440/nokia-n97-review-nokia-is-doomed

The rumour mills are running abuzz with the theory that Nokia would do well to acquire Palm because palm offers Nokia all that it really needs desperately at this point of time. http://www.ubergizmo.com/15/archives/2007/03/nokia_possibly_interested_in_palm.html

Even LG, which doesnot feature as a serious contender in the smartphone business seems to be getting its acts right in that market. http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/22/lg-nokia-sony-markets-equity-technology.html?partner=msn

Nokia seems to be walking the path of Motorola 3 years back. http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/17/nokia-apple-iphone-markets-equity-mobile.html?feed=rss_technology

It’s been a heck of a ride for Apple investors. The stock, which has nearly doubled so far this year and over the past five years the stock has gained an average of 56% a year, an extraordinary achievement. It cannot keep its supply commitments for iPhone. It has already sold 7 times the number of iPhones this year as it did last year. In a extremely competitive smartphone market, Apple is using all its legs to score above the competition: Its Device, the software/UI/Browser and the Applications! Interesting to see how Apple would get the most of this now…

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Profiling the slide at Nokia (Part II)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 22, 2009

Nokia’s Age of Denial

While touch-screens had always been around, it was the iPhone in June, 2007 that had caught everyone’s imagination with its form, function, features and applications. Till then, Nokia’s N and E Series devices were the ultimate in technology. In Q2,2007, Nokia launched the iconic N 95, a do-it-all smart-phone that captured the imagination of the world. Nokia missed the trend, as it was basking in the glory of N 95! Nokia regarded the Haptile feed as a fad which would mellow down. That was not to be and Nokia realized it the harder way.

 August 2008: Nokia launched an offensive against the iPhone 3G by announcing the successor to N 95, the N 96! By then, Nokia had taken note of iPhone’s initial success in US. However iPhone without operator subsidies outside the American shores was a doubtful starter (as proven in the case of India, where the iPhone could not live up to its hype because the carriers (Airtel and Vodafone) did not subsidize it). Positioning the N 96, which was only a few additions to N-95 against iPhone 3G was only a subterfuge. Nokia was trying to play the game on its own terms where as iPhone appeal to the consumers was becoming painfully evident.

 July 2009: This was the first time that Nokia played Apple on a level game. The N 97 which was Nokia’s haptile flagship device fared badly against the Palm Pre and the iPhone 3GS. Nokia’s smartphone portfolio was getting depleted and except the E 71 and its other versions, there was a serious lack of a smartphone from the Nokia stable! The fight between N 97 and iPhone was already dubbed as the fight between device and software. Apple with its sexy and neat looks, brilliant browser and UI and Apps store turned the game on the N97. Even Palm Pre with its WebOS was cooler than the N97!

 What lies ahead

Nokia will now have to re-think its smartphone strategy in order to stay in the game.

  1. Product design: Most of the Nokia phones look and feel like some other Nokia phone. E71 was a success, they augmented it to E 63, E 72.
  2. A new OS that would make UI and browsing experience pleasurable. There is a space to learn from Apple, Android and even the Palm!
  3. Need to look at open sourcing solutions. While they had the first Apps market (Forum Nokia), they lost the plot mid way and allowed Apple to get away with the Apps Market. Failure to differentiate on Apps and Services was a big mistake on hindsight.
  4. Need to be more collaborative rather than closed in its approach. Nokia’s stiff approach to working with the other partners in the eco-system has cost then dear in the Developed markets.
  5. Mobile Internet may well be the next in devices. Enabling a superior browsing experience is key to greater user acceptability. That is again something that Apple and Palm have perfected.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/10545980/1/tech-rumor-of-the-day-nokia– needs-palm.html

Profiling the slide at Nokia (Part I)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 22, 2009

Nokia’s slide in the smartphone segment has been well documented and the latest results from Nokia do not inspire confidence about a quick revival. Nokia’s slide draws a sharp contrast from Apple and its Apps store. Here’s profiling Nokia’s smartphone story.

 Nokia’s Decline

Nokia announced a 66 percent yearly drop in Q2 profit while lowering its 2009 market share target for its cellphones. Originally, Nokia had expected market share to rise in 2009, presumably based on a successful launch of the N97 flagship device. However, outside of a core group of S60 diehards, the N97 has been universally panned in both reviews and user forums alike. And with nothing but rumors of an Atom-based Nokia Netbook on the immediate horizon.

nokia-bleed-smartphone-prints

Overall YOY sales for Nokia have fallen by 25% to 9.9 billion Euros in Q2. This is 7% higher than Q1, 2009.YOY Nokia shipped 103.2 million devices during Q2, 15% less than an year earlier, but 11% more than Q1,2009. The average selling price was also down from 74 Euros Q2 last year to 62 Euros currently. In Q1 2009, Nokia had recorded less than 100 million shipments for the first time in 2 years. Q2 2009 was slightly better in terms of volumes but the ASPs are southward bound still.

 Inspite of aggressive job cuts and other measures such as moving out of non core activities, Nokia is now cutting down its profitability and market share outlook. It is now predicting its mobile phone operating profit margin will match the first half at 11.3% (less than the analysts prediction of 17.4%) and its market share will stay the same as last year (compared to original forecasts of a rise).The stock took a 15% plunge after the results were announced last week.

 Analysis

The significant volumes from the lower end have helped maintain the market shares although it is pulling the ASPs down. However it is the smart-phone market where Nokia is taking a big hit in terms of both volumes and numbers. Thus, Nokia is finding harder to stay profitable because of increasing competition in the high end phone segment from the likes of Apple’s iPhone, Palm Pre, Toshiba’s TG01 against Nokia’s N 97 and 5800, which are key support to its margins. Nokia is suffering from low operating margins because it does not have really competitive products at the high end of the portfolio.

 Analysts are dubbing this period as Nokia’s Motorola Moment. http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/17/nokia-apple-iphone-markets-equity-mobile.html?feed=rss_technology.Once a giant of the handset industry, Motorola got stuck with its Razr handset model longer than it should have done, failing to catch on to other innovations that were taking place in handset making, before losing market share in China to Nokia and in the US to Apple.

Nokia seems to now be falling in the same trap. It was late to realizing the popularity of clam shell phones, late to touch screen and now late to the application store as pioneered by Apple’s iPhone, as well as high quality web browsing. The fact that remains is that Nokia has not been innovating and has only been a fast follower.

Services Company

2 years back, when Nokia had suggested a move into services based businesses, the Wall street had welcomed the efforts by a stock price spike. That was the right thing to do. However, Nokia has taken long to do what it set out to do. And its efforts have been largely diffused. Instead of getting one thing right, Nokia tried many and more different things. It launched into Nokia Music Service and Comes with Music, N-Gage Gaming and Ovi Services, Ovi Share (networking platform) and the latest being Symbian horizon (an apps store). Was Nokia doing too many things at the same time? With Nokia’s kind of ability, it could probably carry the gambit as well. The problem perhaps was Nokia trying a plethora of business models, without really doing anything really meaningful. It was a follower and not the original in most of these services. In effect, it was trying to compete, by its sheer size and presence, and not basis its technology leadership.

In many cases, the platforms existed at Nokia, long before competition had stepped in. N-Series phones were regarded as the ultimate edge in technology for a long time. Yet Nokia never regarded applications and software as a differentiating element unless Apple came along with the Apps Store. It was Apple who pioneered the iTunes and Nokia has been playing catch up with its Music store and Comes with Music.

 The problem is complicated with Symbain OS. While Symbian is the most robust mobile OS and leads the smart-phone OS market share at 40%, Nokia probably needs to look at a second option to compete with the likes of Web OS (Palm), Android and Apple OS.

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