The head of Nokia’s newly restructured Mobile Solutions unit started in his new role last week and did what every self-respecting boss should do – he wrote a blog. No ordinary blog, but one my American friends would call a ‘kick ass’ blog, presumably aimed at rousing the troops and letting the market know he means business. Nokia used to use PR agencies to disseminate this type of startling news but Anssi Vanjoki probably created much more interest by blogging it instead.
Vanjoki is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead but his emotive language seems a far cry from the conservatism displayed by his predecessors. For example, he wrote, “I am committed, perhaps even obsessed, with getting Nokia back to being number one in high-end devices. Achieving this will require performance and efforts over and above the norm. This is a role I’ve personally been preparing for over the last 20 years. We have all the assets — including R&D and product development – at our disposal under one roof – to produce killer smartphones and market-changing mobile computers.” The only thing missing from the blog was a photo of Mr Vanjoki in a set of blue tights and wearing a cape!
It will probably need more than Superman to get Nokia back on track and able to successfully fend off disruptive competitors. When the ‘Black Swan’, disguised as the iPhone appeared, Nokia brushed it off as an upstart playing in a grown-up world. It was merely an iPod that could make calls but lacked all the sophistication that Nokia had developed over twenty years. After seeing its success and the negative effect on Nokia smartphone sales it responded by slapping Apple with a series of patent infringement law suits hoping to slow it down.
Vanjoki also reiterated that Symbian and MeeGo would be key to his strategy, with Symbian being its “platform of choice for Nokia smartphones” and MeeGo powering the pocket computers of the future. Well, I don’t know much about MeeGo (and the name is ripe for sending up, e.g. MeeGoWhere) but I do know about Symbian because I had wasted good money on some Symbian-based phones years back and remember that they were not particularly fast or smart. Nokia has been pushing the Symbian barrow for years, even buying the OS, but it just never seems to deliver the goods. Why does Anssi think it will now that he is in charge? Does he know something hundreds of programmers don’t know?
Let’s face it, Apple and Android powered devices are way ahead and the market is clearly telling Nokia that. It seems highly unlikely that it can change that scenario in the short term. Can we expect more futile and costly lawsuits as a result?
I’m wondering why Nokia doesn’t concentrate on the high-growth areas at the other end of the food chain. Nokia’s low-end phones are the device of choice in almost every emerging market.and having a Nokia is the equivalent of having a Mercedes-Benz in your hand. You’d think that by producing in sheer volumes for these markets Nokia could get the price right down and maintain a clear lead. However, that’s all changing too.
A colleague from the Philippines recently showed up in Jakarta carrying a ‘Made in China’, Cherry Mobile P1 phone that he acquired for around US$20. It was very small, made of blue plastic, worked remarkably well and looked to be disposable and he swore by it. “Tony”, he said,”I can’t afford to lose any more iPhones but if I lose this little beauty, who cares, I’ll just buy another!”
Emerging markets and this new ‘secondary’ market are where the numbers are and I’m not sure that Nokia will retain that, let alone win the top end smartphone sector. So, where does that leave Nokia and Mr Vanjoki?