Category Archives: Editorials

Lumia 800 Ads Take Over London’s Heathrow Airport, Yet Nokia’s Store There Shuts Down

Just as you enter Terminal 5 of London’s Heathrow airport, you are literally bombarded with Lumia 800 ads. There are six of them, playing on giant screens across the hall, so no matter where you eneter, the Lumia 800 Ad is impossible to miss. It looks great, feels fresh and draws you to it, giving Nokia’s new launch some necessary eyeballs.

As you can see, screen after screen playing the one minute ad, again and again. Infact, its the only advertisement that one can spot before you clear security. Here what it looks like:

Great. But, I do have one problem with Nokia’s approach. There used to be a Nokia Store at Terminal 5, showcasing all the Nokia products in an exclusive setting. That store closed one week before Nokia’s big Lumia reveal. One week before their phones became cool again.

So instead of walking in, seeing the ad and then checking out the Nokia devices in the ad I’ve seen, now I can see the ads and then – nothing. I cross security and I forget about it, or as Nokia would hope, remember to then specially goto a Nokia Store operator/multibrand store to check it out.

Lumia 800 Ads Take Over London's Heathrow Airport, Yet Its Store There Shuts Down

(Nokia’s Terminal 5 Store As It Was)

I have been a big advocate of retail stores and I possibly could not understand why Nokia was shutting down its own online AND retail stores. Even if they don’t make money for you Nokia, its important to keep them. Most people will come checkout the device and if they like it, buy it at a store which was selling them for a lesser price, and Nokia should be fine with that. So even if the Heathrow store just sold 10 Lumia 800’s in a month, it would be fine because of who knows how many people have would have gone back home and ordered that device online or via their operator based on the lovely experience at Nokia’s Store. What’s better than showing off your top device in a place which you control, and thus guarantee that the customer walks away with the best experience ever?

The prices at Nokia’s official retail stores was always more than the bargain people were getting online and that’s why the model seemed to be failing for Nokia. Yet, when priced right retail stores indulge impulse buys and devices like the Lumia 800, have the potential to cause exactly that.

So we need to see Nokia’s Stores come back, online and in the real world. I sure hope some of that marketing money is going this way, because it’d suck for Nokia if they made Windows Phones feel cool with all their spending and then people walked into a multibrand store and picked up a Samsung Focus or a HTC Titan.

Thoughts: Nokia To Exit Symbian, Low End Phone Business In The US, No N9, Plans A Big Windows Phone Launch

As Engadget reports, the word on the street is that the Nokia N9 will not be coming to the US of A, at least not right now, which effectively means it isn’t ever. But the more interesting piece of information comes from All Things D, which based on an interview with former Microsoft employee and now the head of Nokia US, Chris Weber, reports that Nokia is looking to exit the Symbian and feature phone market in the US and concentrate solely on their Windows Phone portfolio.

Chris Weber, goes onto say “When we launch Windows Phones we will essentially be out of the Symbian business, the S40 business, etc… it will be Windows Phone and the accessories around that. The reality is if we are not successful with Windows Phone, it doesn’t matter what we do (elsewhere).” Currently whatever little market share Nokia has in the US is because of their low cost feature phones and apparently that’s not making as much money as they would ideally like. But the most interesting part is that from now on Nokia will exclusively look to sell their devices via the carriers in the US, which might spell the end for unlocked Nokias stateside.

Nokia has bet the company on Windows Phone and clearly they are read for a all or nothing gamble. Aiding in that endeavour would be tons on marketing muscle more that anything Nokia’s every done. So much so that the US will be getting bulk of advertising dollars, “significantly larger than anything we have done in the past and the most we will invest in any market worldwide,” according to Weber.

I cannot say I’m surprised. The decision to kill Symbian and low cost phones in the US more that anything, is about changing the company’s image. They want to be seen as a premium smartphone manufacturer and not somebody who’s good for cheap disposable phones.

As for the Nokia N9, it should come as no shock that that it isn’t coming to major markets around the world. Nokia believes in what they are doing with Windows Phone and launching a MeeGo Harmattan device one month before the Windows Phone devices isn’t sending the right message. They’ve clearly made up their mind about the N9 being a niche device, a last hurray for their own development teams, nothing more. Chances are that come Q1 2012, you wouldn’t even hear about it and the everyone who’s lusting after one will have moved onto the next shinny piece of hardware, or so Nokia hopes.

The only thing that I am a little surprised about is the fact that Nokia is looking to make carriers their exclusive retail channel. May be that’s the price they are having to pay in order to get in bed with the carriers but at a time when even Apple is selling iPhones unlocked, one does hope that it wouldn’t be the case.

One last thing, Weber points out that “We’ll develop for North America and make the phones globally available and applicable, … In fact, evidence of that is that the first Windows Phones that will ship are being done by our group in San Diego”. That has worked well for Apple and to an extent for Google, it’ll be interesting to see if the rub of the green goes Nokia’s way too.

We sure hope so.

Post Q2 Results, Should Nokia Rethink Its N9 Strategy?

The people at the helm at Nokia could see this and say, heh, do you even know our N9 strategy? Or may be that you’re missing the bigger picture, and how its now a war of ecosystems. I get that. This is in part a rant and in part a post on thinking aloud about what could Nokia do to stem the impending bloodbath that the next two quarters would bring.

We could all get together and blame Nokia’s new CEO for announcing the Windows Phone switch so soon and say that he could have handled the Symbian transition better, but lets just forget all that. Who knows what pressures he was under, or if Microsoft wanted it done that way, its all in the past. The point is what can Nokia do now.

Post Q2 Results, Should Nokia Rethink Its N9 Strategy?

Clearly the Q2 results are telling, not many people are buying Nokia devices these days, specially when there is an acute lack of quality high end devices. The N8 is getting old now, the E7 didn’t really take off and the hopes of the company now rest with the capable E6, but these are still not devices that can have the kind of impact Nokia needs, something to pull people to the stores.

They have one device that can. The Nokia N9. Its new, its fresh, and most importantly its nearly ready. If Nokia wants, the N9 could be in stores the world over. Yes its probably the last of its kind, but be that as it may, so what? Nokia needs to sell as many devices as it can and the N9 practically sells itself.

The worry inside of Nokia is about what sort of message are they sending to the consumers, asking them to buy a device which they themselves have given up on? Will the consumer even buy such a phone? Or that there will be confusion in the market because two similar looking devices will be running different OSs i.e. if Nokia’s first Windows Phone (the leaked Sea Ray) is actually the one they’ll be announcing come Nokia World in late October.

Post Q2 Results, Should Nokia Rethink Its N9 Strategy?

Then there’s also the problem of volume. If production schedules were designed with a small number of units in mind, can Nokia’s factories scale quickly to produce enough N9s to spread throughout the world come September? Will the cost of marketing the device the world over, or as least in high volume countries like India be easily offset by the sales?

If Nokia feels burnt by the N900 experience of pushing a hacker’s phone to the mass market, it shouldn’t decide the N9’s fate based on the old sting. The N9 is no N900. Its polished, as smooth as you like, has a nice capacitive display, comes with all the essential apps out of the box and is so beautiful that even the ladies will want one. The N900 was a beast, the touch experience was amiss, essential functionality was sometimes being worked upon and all this didn’t make it the consumer’s number one choice, it was one hell of a phone, just not the pinnacle of the average consumer’s dreams.

Apps have never been Nokia’s forte, but with Qt Quick things are really on the up and up. The Ovi Store is getting some really nice new apps everyday and there is enough developer interest in the N950/N9 to virtually guarantee a quick port for the N9. Nokia’s already backtracked on killing Symbian and has given it life till 2016, so at least some developers will be sticking around.

If you really come down to it, its hard to name even one single phone that can be the shinning star for Nokia in the next two quarters. The new Symbian devices will not be taken note of till Symbian’s new UI with Belle makes an appearance post Nokia World and the Windows Devices aren’t coming till the end of the year, that too in limited quantities. So its clear that if left unchecked, the fall will be fast and it will be hard. There are already signs that the device may be coming to more countries than the original 23 listed, lets just hope its actually happening.

I am not for a second saying deviate from the Windows Phone strategy, I do firmly believe that a lot of good can come from it, just that when you have something good on the side to fall back on, think of it as a nice thing. Something that may perhaps even help stem the carnage that seems imminent.

For the current quarter at Nokia its time to buckle down, to think of the N9 as your only phone and push it out, hard. There is nothing to loose, it might just win your back your loyalists. In the very least, it’ll get you mindshare, and that as we all know is as important as anything.

Thoughts: The ‘We Want Nokia To Keep MeeGo’ Petition

Its been just about 24 hours since Nokia announced the N9 and since then the interwebs have been going crazy with tons of N9 chatter, every small seemingly inconsequential detail is also being lapped up, every hands on scrutinized and people are still hungry for more. Not for a long time has there been so much excitement about a Nokia device, not even the N8 produced the kind of euphoria that has swept across Nokia fans the world over.

Even Nokia’s harshest critics have come out with words of praise, something that perhaps has come as a pleasant surprise to Nokia itself. Infact I am yet to witness any real negative feedback for the device. The only complaint people seem to have is that its based on a dead platform. Nokia through its language about the N9 helping shape future Windows Phone devices and innovation has virtually confirmed that they have no plans to make another MeeGo device.

Its almost a paradox, Nokia tried pleasing the technorati the last few years and it didn’t really work. Then they decided that MeeGo wasn’t good enough internally and now the media seems to like it.

Once we all saw what the N9 could do, I had a feeling sooner or later we’d start seeing Nokia please keep MeeGo petitions, but it took a mere 6 hours for it to start.

A Twitter petition, Twitition if you will, has already started doing the rounds and in a short period has garnered over 700 signatures, including those of many Nokia employees. You can sign it here if you feel inclined.

The Nokia N9 does make you wonder what if Feb 11 hadn’t happened, I have already blogged my thoughts here. But will any of this change Nokia’s stance on MeeGo? Here’s what I think can happen, Nokia has said that it’ll relegate MeeGo to the future disruption category, what that means is that they could still release one MeeGo smartphone every year and flood the market with their Windows Phone devices meanwhile. Symbian will be supported till 2016, that’s 5 years away. With Qt acting as the bridge and getting better all the time, we should still see a fair quantity of apps around. This way they keep everyone happy.

Thoughts: The 'We Want Nokia To Keep MeeGo' Twitition

But, here is another scenario. The N9 will ship by September, around the same time the next iPhone will ship and people will start to make comparisons. This will also be the time when the noise for Nokia to keep MeeGo will grow stronger as more and more people experience the N9. But slowly the main stream media will start doing comparisons with the iPhone 5’s retina display, dual core processors and what not. The fans’ attention will waiver and it’ll soon be time for Nokia World in October. All attention will be on Nokia’s reply to the iPhone 5 with their first Windows Phone device. It’ll be announced on October 26 and soon people will begin to begin forget the N9.

Some people at Nokia will breathe a sign of relief. After all, MeeGo becoming successful will present more questions than answers for Nokia. They can’t have people begin to start questioning its Feb 11 decisions, not when the shares have already tanked.

Anyway, it can play out either way, I personally would like to see Nokia release one MeeGo device every year, just to keep Microsoft interested, if nothing else.

EDoF Cameras May Not Be Bad, But Nokia Should Still Switch Back To Auto-Focus

The EDoF versus Auto-Focus camera debate has been gaining speed in the last few months, and Nokia’s recent announcements in the form of the E6 and the X7, both of which pack an 8 Megapixel EDoF camera, have made it a burning issue. Put simply EDoF cameras, or ‘Full Focus’ cameras like Nokia likes to call them are extended depth of field units which means that everything in photo taken at a distance of more than 60 cm is in focus.

What this means is that you cannot take pictures of documents and virtually replace a scanner, you cannot scan barcodes, no food pictures and so on. Basically anything which needs to be near the camera’s lens is a no-no. It does however have its benefits like Steve Litchfield points out in this wonderfully detailed feature on All About Symbian. There are advantages in the size of the sensor, video recording, there in no shot to shot delay and taking pictures is slightly faster, although compared to high performance devices like the N8, that’s hardly noticeable.

Back in September during Nokia World, I had a interesting chat with Nokia’s camera king Damien Dinning about EDoF cameras and Nokia’s reasons to use them. The major reasons were that it makes taking pictures easier for people by eliminating the two step shot process. Another advantage is that it lets Nokia make slimmer devices, at a lower cost. I was open to giving EDoF cameras a fair try and after having seen them perform on the C7 and now the E7, which otherwise is a great device I am sure of one thing, I will not be inclined to buy a device with an EDoF camera.

The argument against that is that I am part of that 1% of the population who is concerned about being able to take close up shots, while it may be true to an extent, it is definitely not the norm. A lot more people indulge in macro photography without realizing it. Within my own family and friend circle I have seen people click pictures of flowers, newspaper clippings, whiteboards and so on. Then, BlackBerry in India is running ads on TV showing how you can add friends to the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) just be scanning the barcode. I could have told them scanning barcodes has been possible on Nokias since 5 years, now I cannot.

Barcodes have also started appearing on ads in the newspaper, but just as they are getting traction, Nokia owners are loosing that ability. As far as the making it easier for normal people to take pictures story goes, they have become used to the two step process. All digital cameras do it that way, most mobile phones too and in the last 5 years a majority of the people have gotten accustomed to that.

Then there is the size argument. Nokia says it uses EDoF cameras to keep a slim profile, but I am sorry to say, I don’t buy that. If all the other companies are managing to do it, then you must try harder too. Push the engineering team, and I am sure they will do it.

The bottomline for me is $300. No device costing more than that much should have a EDoF camera, period. I suspect, the decision to use EDoF sensors was taken when the first batch of Symbian^3 devices was planned. The idea was to keep costs low, offer these devices at an affordable price point and hope they sell by the truckloads. They couldn’t price them at a premium because Symbian was already taking a hit and they couldn’t afford Symbian^3 being ignored just because devices that ran it were too expensive.

Looking at the internal hardware, it is also probably that the two new devices that have just been announced, the X7 and the E6, were also planned during the initial phase and thus carry forward the EDoF legacy. I am pretty certain Nokia has seen the public sentiment on EDoF cameras, and will probably push them into the lower price bracket instead of making it the standard Nokia camera. We might see it on a new Symbian device, but there is no way Nokia will be using one of these on their Windows Phone offerings.

That being said, Nokia, if you haven’t re-thought the EDoF strategy, now is a really good time – while people still equate Nokias to great cameras.

Nokia & Microsoft: The Bigger Picture

Nokia will be making Windows Phone 7 devices by the truckloads, if you had been harboring dreams of an Android intervention, deal with it. The internet is virtually up in arms against the move, Nokia enthusiasts who had been waiting patiently for Nokia’s Qt, Symbian and MeeGo strategy to pan out have been woken up to an alternate reality. Even Nokia’s stock price is down 9.19% at the time I write this, in stark contrast to what they would have expected.

But what happens a few months down the line? When we see the first WP7 powered Nokia, with its trademark beautiful design, great hardware, amazing camera and loaded with all the main stream apps, something that has never happened? Add to that a much better email client, great office support, free navigation and millions will be tempted to bite in. In the meanwhile, with Nokia’s input Microsoft adds basic multitasking and finishes things like putting copy/paste in.

Nokia & Microsoft: The Bigger Picture

By that time, people will have a slightly more open outlook, Nokia and MS will have the biggest marketing budget that any OS has ever had and if the product they product is even mildly tempting, Nokia loyalists will try it to see what Nokia’s gained by this move. The Symbian haters will finally have a Nokia they’d we willing to try out and if a compelling proposition is presented, we could well see the present anger subside and good uptake of Nokia’s WP7 offering.

Meanwhile, Nokia will still ship Symbian devices, but will attempt to slowly transition everything into WP7 by bringing the hardware requirements for WP7 lower. MeeGo is effectively on the back burner, as a experiment for the future. This means that the millions that were spent promoting Qt, will now go down the drain. Very few developers will want to make apps for a ‘officially’ dying platform.

Personally speaking, I am not a fan of the no multitasking and lack of things like copy/paste on WP7. I am also not too sure about the vertical homescreen. The basics will be fixed by the time Nokia ships its first WP7 device, but all this while they have harped on their operating systems’ (both Symbian & Maemo) ability to multitask, that will no longer hold true. These are things where I hope Nokia differentiates or prevails on MS to inculcate very soon.

At the end of the day, I recognize the potential this partnership has. Nokia wasn’t being able to get decent developer traction, had a poor email experience and was getting hammered because of Symbian’s perceived weakness. That will change, along with the fact that they will now concentrate on their strength, getting the best hardware in place. I therefore look forward to what Nokia does with Windows Phone 7.

Nokia & Microsoft: The Bigger Picture

Nokia and Microsoft clearly look very happy. Question is will they be laughing their way to the bank?