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Thursday, February 14, 2013

NOKIA: THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

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Last month, BlackBerry launched its new Operating system and devices which managed to garner a lot of praise from bloggers who loved it's buttonless, gesture driven interface. Before now another company had also introduced a similar gesture driven OS which wowed the blogosphere with its multitasking capabilities along with a topnotch hardware. But unlike BlackBerry, they chose to abandon this widely praised OS for another relatively new and irrelevant OS, the Windows Phone 7, which was anesthetically appealing but was ridden with so many limitations, which presented any longtime Nokia user a case of a owning a White Elephant aka beautiful nonsense.

I have had the opportunity of comparing the N9 and Lumia 800 side by side, while the tiles made the Lumia stand out but beyond that everything seemed to go awry. My brother who had bought a Lumia 800 mainly due to device envy was filled with buyer's remorse as he was unable to perform simple tasks like Bluetooth transfers that he was accustomed to from his symbian days. The need for Zune for copying songs and videos into his beautiful phone and the lack of USB Mass Storage, sent him scrambling back to his BlackBerry 9900 and the Lumia 800 back to it's box. This case kind of mirrors the frustrations of many Nokia fans who have have been accustomed to not having these limitations. Well you might say that Windows Phone 8 solves this problem, well it might but do you really think that any of them would want to pick up another Lumia device again?. Even the Maemo 5 (N900) didn't have these issues. Yet someone at Espoo felt that Maemo6 or Meego wasn't ready for primetime and that Windows Phone 7 was, which led to the now infamous burning platform memo and the abandonment of Nokia's road map for Windows phone. Nokia's roadmap was supposed to bring in meego as the OS of choice for their High end devices and symbian for the whole range, which would gradually would be phased out. This singular decision saw Nokia's smartphone market share plummet from over 30% back in 2010 to 5.1% at the end of 2012.

Some of the arguments for choosing Windows Phone over the Meego/Symbian roadmap was the lack of an ecosystem. Well today The Windows Marketplace still lags well behind Android and iOS in sheer number of apps and even popular apps and games like instagram, asphalt 7, Temple Run2 still haven't made their way into the marketplace. Even Facebook doesn't have an app for the windows phone (the current app is built by Microsoft). The Window Phone ecosystem was suppose to make it easier for one to access music with its integration with Xbox but yet Nokia has to build apps like Nokia Music for their devices something that they wouldn't need to do if the Xbox Music integration worked well as it should. So this questions the rational behind the decision by the CEO Stephen Elop to join this deficient platform and make it Nokia's sole option. Methinks it was a result of clear myopia as he didn't have a background on the working in the mobile phone industry. His American market first approach has all but killed Nokia off.

The executives at BlackBerry chose to launch their devices in the markets they were strongest at (Canada, UK, Middle East and Africa) clearly following an age long tradition of one playing to his strength. In doing this they took advantage of brand loyalty and word of mouth since the buyers would show off their new devices to their family and friends, who may be converted. And in keeping most of the functionally of their previous OS they would be able to keep their old customers happy enough to continue using BlackBerry devices in the future.

I believe Nokia should have taken a similar route by continuing with their roadmap as the maemo6 or meego devices had similar functionality to the Symbian devices. Which would help users switching from Symbian to Meego get accustomed to their new devices in the shortest amount of time. The deficiency of apps could have been easily rectified with a Dalvik runtime (and since Meego and Android are Linux derivatives, the Dalvik runtime could be made to run better so that android apps would run like if it was a native app), giving incentives to developers to build the popular apps or even build some of these apps like instagram, Facebook, twitter (heck BlackBerry builds the Facebook, twitter apps).

One might say that Nokia has killed the brand off and people would not respond to it anymore. Well, their is still the Asha Full Touch OS (you guys call a smartphone, now make it one). We have been treated to the swipe gestures, well it's nice and a good start but needs to be better. Why not strap in the Linux core from maemo 6 with QT support to make use of the Symbian apps available, and the Dalvik runtime in addition to the Java runtime (Samsung Galaxy line all run java apps) and Most importantly Multitasking. The Asha OS was meant to help Nokia retain its share of the cellphone market, but it can not do that if remains deficient when compared to Android devices of the same price. These android devices from manufacturers like Techno, Hauwei all have multitasking, decent RAM and a sizeable catalog of apps to choose from. While Nokia chooses to give buyers devices with 1GHz processors and 64MB RAM and no multitasking.

To me Nokia needs to do the following to get back into the market

  • Bring back maemo and call it Asha if you like
  • Make the New Asha OS compatible with QT, Android and Java apps
  • Make the Asha device more appealing target the mid-range and downwards(4 inch screens, 5MP cameras, 512MB RAM, 1GHz processors is a good start)
  • Retain features like USB Mass storage, USB OTG, and others
  • Price it aggressively the price of the current Lumia 602 is a good start or even the Asha 311

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