More deathcries from Nokia

So Nokia once again declare that life is tough for them, posting a massive loss (which apparently is only the 2nd time in 19 years…), but why?

It’s really quite simple. Nokia is out of touch.

Its current product lineup is inadequate to meet the demands (not needs) of consumers today. They’re using horribly out of date software platforms (Symbian is good, the UI is terrible for the touchscreen generation), and it lacks the coherent thinking and vision of other players out there. That in itself was bad enough, but they decided to poor boiling water over themselves in announcing and tieing in with Microsoft, creating the worst combination for many out there.

Windows Phone 7 is too immature, lacks the market share and application support of the 2 big players out there (yes, Android and Apple iOS). It seems obvious, but the underlying OS is not what people care about – if it can do the basics of calls, text messaging etc then that’s fine. What sets it apart is capability. Todays phones are assessed on capability by “apps” – a phone without apps is just not worth considering.

I’ve had this conversation with someone in our office recently. They’re still using the pension collecting Nokia E90 device. It’s a top end phone (generally associated as a “Nokia Communicator” in past times), has excellent battery, life, the keyboard and a reasonable browser. The problem is there is a glut of apps – not that unexpected when you consider that the “app” concept is still pretty new. In looking at alternatives/replacements a few have come up – including Nokia’s E7 – a touchscreen, qwerty keyboard enabled device. On the surface he said the hardware seems good, it feels nice. But his problem? The software. That lack of apps.

What Nokia STILL hasn’t grasped is that having good hardware DOES matter (Apple excel at making hardware people find visually attractive, irrespective of its merits). A lot of people like Nokia’s hardware. I used to (until they started taking shortcuts on things like USB connectors). The hardware though will not save the day, it’s just not enough.

People want Facebook apps, they want Twitter, they want games to play, tools to let them play with camera photos, stuff to make stupid noises, tools to let them work “out and about” and so on – it is what smartphones are ultimately targetted for, and it should be of absolutely no surprise when that is precisely what people expect.

Nokia made a poor decision with Windows Phone 7 – it has the same fundamental as Symbian does. “It’s alright” on the surface, but hasn’t got the third party things people and that’s the key – today’s phones are all about those third party developers who either adopt your platform (and it succeeds) or you don’t and you die with it.

Nokia would have been far wiser to take the base of Android, embrace its rich application support, gone back to building exceptional hardware, with great cameras, acceptable battery life and so on, and perhaps differentiated themselves using concepts like HTC with its “Sense UI” – Nokia have the talent to sit an amazing UI on top of the core OS, and wouldn’t have to fight to get acceptance of the application market, nor would it have to switch to a competitor considered an “also ran” in the market today.

Mobiles have changed. It isn’t about Nokia anymore. It is perhaps a shame to see, but they’re making the destiny for themselves. The current Chief Exec is making some incredibly poor decisions. Perhaps they should have thrown developers at writing a mind blowing, touch specialising UI with some absolutely killer applications that take full advantage of that know how. Instead people are abandoning ship. Why exactly WOULD you bother to develop for Nokia’s Symbian efforts anymore?

So if you’re listening Nokia, give this a try:

  • Android Based Device
  • Don’t scrimp on the memory/flash for the core OS and application installation
  • Chuck as much flash memory for storage as you can (or offer lots of options) – 64GB or more PLEASE!
  • Make the camera genuinely brilliant – Nokia do have the better cameras generally
  • Make sure it has GPS
  • Make sure it has all the acceleromters and other “ometers” going
  • Do something to make battery life BETTER than “a working day” or “a sligtly longer day with less load” – a couple of REAL days or a full HEAVY use day
  • Write amazing widgets for functions like calendars, facebook updates and all the stuff people like to see
  • Make sure you offer a QWERTY format device (more niche but valuable and targets businesses more) as well
  • Do not get second best processors, dual core, fast processors.
  • Do what apple do – make sure you “hide” issues by offering no hassle, immediate swaps if a fault develops (this helps your reputation easily)
  • Hire incredible designers of hardware – be different to apple, but better. Don’t do stupid stuff (apple antenna madness, your own usb connector weakness debacles)
  • Issue Software updates every month – proactively fix issues, offer new features, you’ll build loyalty

..do those things and you have half a chance, but you’re going to have to run like hell to catch up now.

There is a market for a really powerful, really well specified mobile device out there. Nokia could deliver it, but they’ve chosen to get lost instead.

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