Archive for December, 2009

An Open Letter to Nokia – How to Win Back The Smartphone Market

Posted in Technology by epictetus on December 28th, 2009

Nokia is in a very difficult position now;  they have become completely irrelevant in the US smartphone market, and are losing ground around the world.  At one time, they had at least a 5-10 year technology lead on any competitor — having the first platform with an open API for app development, among many other firsts.  In fact, it’s only within the last few years that other smartphones have begun to even come close to what Nokia/symbian could do.  However, the marketing side never caught up with the technology — every day there are news stories about “amazing” new capabilities of Android or iPhones that are capabilities Symbian phones had since 2004 or earlier — capabilities Nokia never successfully marketed.

  1. Figure Out US Carrier Subsidies and Partnerships. This is something that EVERY successful smartphone company in the US must do — 99.9% of the US market simply WILL NOT BUY AN UNSUBSIDIZED PHONE, EVER.   US consumers get their smartphones by walking into a Verizon Wireless or Cingular or T-Mobile storefront (or booth) and signing up for a contract/getting a phone on the spot.  NONE OF THESE CONSUMERS ARE EVEN BEING OFFERED THE CHOICE OF A NOKIA SMARTPHONE. The US is an important market and it is going to be impossible for Nokia smartphones to succeed without a US presence.
  2. Revitalize Symbian. This means, in many cases, UI improvements need to be copied from the iPhone — menus need to be simplified, boot time needs to be dramatically reduced, lag needs to be reduced, browsing needs to be improved, touchscreen support needs to be made drastically more user-friendly, sensitive, and intuitive.  Multitouch support needs to be added and if there is a way in software to add multitouch to existing devices, that needs to be done (there is a Symbian touchscreen game that at least appears to support multitouch).
  3. The Ovi Store needs dramatic improvements. First off, the enormous library of existing S60 freeware apps need to be added to the Ovi store — Nokia should go so far as to actually PAY developers to put applications in the store.  Nokia needs to stop worrying about profiting by charging developers fees to add applications to the store and taking a percentage of commercial apps — IF THE SYMBIAN PLATFORM DIES THESE FEES WILL AMOUNT TO NOTHING.  Charging development fees on a platform no one uses is not a workable business model.    Second, the store needs far more applications, the Ovi application needs to be more responsive, and installing an application needs to be faster.
  4. Navigation needs to be free on every GPS-enabled Nokia phone. Again, trying to charge for add-ons to a platform that is essentially dead is not a workable business model;  Nokia needs to defeat the iPhone first and then they will have the luxury of trying to increase profit margins by charging for add-ons; you can’t sell add-ons to a phone nobody buys.
  5. Nokia needs to make several Android phones. Nokia has some of the best hardware engineering skills in the world;  they  should show off these skills by making the best Android smartphones on the market, and the internal competition should encourage improvements in Maemo and Symbian.  This also hedges Nokia’s position if the Maemo and Symbian product development teams fail.
  6. 5800 Needs Firmware Updates to Become iPhone Killer. The Symbian and Ovi Store improvements mentioned above should help this, as should carrier relationships — we need news stories about the things the 5800 can do that the iPhone can’t.  We need better browsing, better apps, more responsiveness, and a better overall user experience.