Decision Time

Decision Time

All of which must lead you to conclude I fear for Nokia's future? Funnily enough, you couldn't be more wrong.

Nokia has unparalleled resources, a massive customer base, a potentially winning operating system finally in its grasp and it has always been good at putting together high specification hardware - just look at the N8. No survival isn't Nokia's problem, focus is. Quite simply, Nokia needs to know what it wants to be - and to do that it needs to make some hard decisions:


Decision One: the Smartphone Giant
If Nokia truly wants to be a leading smartphone maker it must reorganise the company with a top down hardware and software philosophy. MeeGo should be its sole platform and Symbian needs to be weeded out, starting with its high end models and over time pulled from its midrange and - ultimately - budget lines (because all phones will become smartphones). Future handsets must also be designed to get the best experience out of MeeGo: the days of creating me-too hardware and trying to crowbar Symbian onto them must end.

Decision Two: the Numbers Game
No-one knows better than Nokia how hard it is to produce a winning smartphone. It costs a fortune in R&D, requires endless marketing and the resilience to keep pushing technological boundaries every year. Currently Nokia doesn't do it very well, what it does do well is volume. No-one can match Nokia at selling large numbers of mobile phones. Granted the majority are cheap and cheerful, but they tend to be reliable, simple to make and – when compared to the relentless app screening and firmware updates required by smartphones – headache free. There is nothing wrong with being a high volume, low margin handset maker. You don't see Ford trying to be Ferrari.

Time's Up
Ultimately the majority of us would like to see Nokia be brave and opt for Decision One, but it is the far harder choice. A potential third route would be to buy someone like HTC while it still can and run it as a wholly owned subsidiary. Looking back, Palm could have been ideal and it would have been a much more natural fit than inside HP.

That said, the heart of the problem is (despite what company execs might claim) Nokia as an organisation doesn't have a clue where it is going. Booklet 3G anyone? What is clear is in 2010 it can't continue in its role as the gallant generalist who makes the phones your dad loves. Decisions must be made, and quick.

Links:
The fightback Starts Now Nokia Blog Post
Nokia CEO Promises High-end Smartphone Fight Back - TR News Story
YouGov Study via techradar

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