I just came across a very though provoking piece on the Conversations website – Product Leaks. We are all well aware of the latest Nokia phones but that’s not it, these days we seem to be aware of what’s being cooked up in their labs too! Pictures of the latest Nokia slider, the first S60 touchscreen device and so on are hugely sought after and our appetite for more and more knowledge about what’s going on never ends. May be it is because we are just looking too see what our newest purchase going to look like or do, but it could also be possibly be a manifestation of a part of us that feels and wants to be a part of Nokia. We want to be ‘in’ on the latest no matter what, be part of the entire product life cycle.
I fondly recall when the first pictures and specifications of a rumoured N83 emerged, how it was later confirmed as the N95. From the very first day, I decided that I wanted the phone. Waiting months for it to be announced, lapping up every tiny bit of information on it, meanwhile discussing it with fellow enthusiasts, it was fun. But at what cost for Nokia? I at that time was sold on an N73, had almost bought it when the leak hit. I stopped, waited a few more months and then got the N95 while skipping the N73. That leak had just caused Nokia a 450$ loss. What was worse for them, I even told a friend to hang on – 900$. But if you come to think of it, this is not a big loss at all. Nokia sells millions of handsets and a large chunk of those buyers do not have a clue that the handset is available until they see it in shops. May be with time the percent of Internet savvy buyers grows, but but this will continue to remain one of the lessor worries.
The bigger problem is that the latest technologies, beta products, unfinished hardware are all within our knowledge and that means within the knowledge of Nokia’s competitors too. Information about an upcoming release, a few months or even a year in advance can be very damaging in this overly competitive market. As Charlie explains it, “the whole consumer electronics industry is set up on a product launch cycle method for communicating, building market and sales, and supporting products. When a product goes out, it’s not just put on a shelf, there are pricing deals to be made, sales and marketing campaigns (lots of times with partners) to be set up, support centers and sales teams and journalists to be briefed, and so on. Knock that out of whack and you get a really confused customer, angry partners, wasted money, and a bunch of writers with no story.”
A lot of trouble is also caused when devices with proto software/hardware end up in the hands of people who don’t understand what to make of it and this thus creates misconceptions that last forever inspite of whatever Nokia or any other company for that matter may try or do. Even looking at the entire scenario from a pure consumer point of view, we have two choices – One, to get know about something bit by bit, one small piece at a time to keep up enthusiasm up or – Two, to get up one fine day and see Nokia announce a killer device that blows our minds off.
Nokia, it seems is a company most prone to leaks as almost every high end phone was leaked ahead of the official announcement expect may be for the N75, but seriously outside the US no one never even saw it. It is because of this that Nokia Events/Announcements never draw the amount of anticipation and buzz that say a Macworld does. The reason for these leaks is put down to ‘a mixture of dumb moves, broken NDAs, maybe some thievery, and possibly someone with best wishes’ and also because Nokia is ‘a decent, open, and general good-natured company.’
The question they are asking is how do we keep your interest without giving away all the info before we’re ready? The answer to this question is not simple, if there even was one. Leaks are something that have and will continue to happen, no matter what. But are they such a bad thing? After all they serve to keep customers loyal, people can start saving in the longterm and as soon as devices are released into the wild – buy them. Nokia inspite of all these leaks also continues to be a world leader with sky rocketting sales. But we all know the other side of the picture too.
If I were to sum this up, I guess I’d have to say that an access of everything is bad and this applies to leaks too, but few and far between – when strategically placed, perhaps by Nokia themselves (if they don’t already do it) they will continue to work wonders. Thoughts anyone?