Profiling the slide at Nokia (Part II)
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.
- 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.
- A new OS that would make UI and browsing experience pleasurable. There is a space to learn from Apple, Android and even the Palm!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.