Nokia is evolving, or so they say. If you look at the facts, you’d have to agree, their services finally look like taking shape. Nokia Messaging has been pretty solid for the past few months, Ovi Maps is great and the others I don’t care much for right now. I loved Share on Ovi, but then they revamped (small resolution embeds, small display size) it and since then, me and a lot of other people have been forced to looked away. But on the whole their services portfolio is much better than the state it was in last year and the deal with Yahoo! should help even more.
Back to their devices. In my book Nokia launched two or three really nice devices last year – the N900, The E72 and the E52. Unfortunately, both the N900 and E52 have been late in coming to India. So that left people here with just the E72 as the Eseries flagship and the N97 Mini. They probably understood that people were looking for more, so they started pushing their GPS based Ovi Maps devices by bundling a free car charger an an in-car dock, another awesome move.
So despite doing some really nice things why did I see Nokia slide this past year? Lets come back to the E72. I have it and I love it to bits. Its a really nice device that packs a good camera, has a great keyboard, fast OS, music capabilities and pretty much beats any business smartphone by a mile. Plus at about 400$ or less, it is priced well.
Yet, when I look around I see more and more people getting a Blackberry, low end, high end it doesn’t matter as long as its a Blackberry, its almost become a flaunt symbol. I see people sharing their BB pins’ on Facebook as status messages and what not. But if you compare the top end Blackberry which is at least 150$ more expensive to the E72, it fails to match the E72’s feature set. The people I am talking about are not corporates who need BlackBerrys for specific email solutions but people who use Gmail. Its as if the BB brand has taken off. I am not sure why this is happening, it could be because celebrities on Twitter have ‘sent from my BB’ in their tweets, or that there is no seemingly premium device in the E72 form factor. Perhaps Nokia needs a portrait QWERTY with metal and a leather back.
Obviously this is not a good thing for Nokia. Such behavior might not affect profits in the small term but will affect brand value in the long run, something which is critical. The Nokia brand has been talking a beating lately, but in India it is still very strong and people here love Symbian. Infact you will probably find more Symbian advocates in India than anywhere else in the world. This advantage they should not let go of.
Now lets look at the Nokia N8. I am not sure if Nokia was forced to announce the N8 early or it was their plan all along, but if I had a bit of say, this is what I would do. First announce the N8 in late May, show it off to a few people around the world, let them talk about it. Push it aggressively, demo it, showcase its capabilities and then open pre-orders one week before WWDC. You want a foothold in the US? You will not get it by waiting for Apple to announce the next iPhone, see people buy it in droves and then offer your device a month later when everyone has bought the iPhone. At least give your device a fighting chance.
I would love to see Nokia come up with strong aggressive campaign to get their brand value back on track. Take the competition head on, pleasantly surprise the everyone at Nokia World.