The touchscreen problem
The good news is Nokia has already proved it can build high quality smartphones. The N95 and N95 8GB sold in a way which left hotcakes looking over their shoulders in envy and while the N96 and N97 were delayed, overpriced tosh the E71 showed Nokia could still turn on the magic when it wanted to.
Smartphones have never been Nokia's problem – touchscreens have. On the hardware side Nokia seemed baffled by the benefits of capacitive screens long after everyone else got it and on the software side it made a botch job of updating the venerable, if ageing, Symbian platform to make best use of this new input method. In fact, so desperate did Nokia become in hiding its touchscreen failings it famously falsified the UI in an ad for the N97 showing menu transitions that didn't exist and a level of speed and responsiveness far removed from the real thing. The complaints (and comparisons) flooded in:
The problem was Nokia refused to accept any help. Unlike Motorola, which has been reborn via its embrace of Google Android, the Finns kept plugging away and getting it wrong. Thankfully that stubbornness eased earlier this year when Nokia agreed a deal to merge its promising, but niche, Maemo platform with Intel's Moblin tablet OS to form MeeGo and initial reactions to version 1.0 have been highly promising.
Unfortunately even with this potentially winning operating system in its grasp the future for Nokia isn't MeeGo, it's MeeGo and Symbian. Yes Nokia plans to use both, splitting the two confusingly between their "smartest devices" (to use Vanjoki's own words) and even if the two were both fantastic (and early feedback is Symbian^3 isn't) it's a recipe for confusion. MeeGo and Symbian aren't compatible and they don't even look similar. This means customers can't make smooth changes between ranges and destroys any chance of replicating the seamless feeder system Apple has used so well in graduating iPod touch users to the iPhone.