Editorial: Nokia’s Bright Future
Now that the hoopla, fun and fawning over the Nokia N9’s launch is well over, it’s time for some serious rethinking of the vicious throat cut battle that is engulfing the smartphone market. There’s no denying that when the N9 was revealed to and sundry, everyone quickly forgot about everything else and simply marveled at the gorgeous design of the unibody, curved glass slab that was N9. Granted that it was running an OS that was quite literally abandoned by its own mother, but the device itself was a winner all right, make no mistake about it. And that’s where this editorial humbly starts off its piece.
Before the iPhone came about, most mobile phone users swore their allegiance to Nokia. The numbers confirm this, as the market share of Nokia handsets was enviably far ahead of the rest. This of course, is hardly surprising. Nokia had cemented its place into most mobile phone users’ hearts with its then top notch hardware quality, not to mention its excellent service too. Fast forward to 2011, and Nokia is now the purveyor of relatively obsolete cellphones that are used by those who are too dumb to figure out the nitty gritties of this age’s quintessential and ubiquitous smartphones.
So what happened in between?
Two things mainly. The meteoric rise of iOS and Android, and the decline of Nokia’s hardware quality coupled with their reluctance, nay outright rejection, of the usage of a decent OS in powering their cell phones. While they stuck loyally with Symbian, the emergence of iOS, an absolute winner when coupled with the excellent hardware that Apple provided, and Android, an open source OS alternative that has made it possible for people to own a good smart phone without selling an organ of theirs, has eroded Nokia’s presence in the mobile market so much that this episode will probably be used years hence as a business case study! This in turn also led to the Ovi Store becoming an unprofitable avenue for app development, driving the developers to iOS and Android instead, where their prospective market was certainly larger and hence, development of iOS and Android far outperforming that of Symbian. Another nail in the coffin for Nokia.
This is why the arrival of the N9 may just be the lease of life that the Finnish manufacturer so desperately needs. Of course, the story still remains incomplete. The crucial piece of this thriller jigsaw was obviously fitted in earlier this year in February, when Nokia announced its strategic partnership with Microsoft. Essentially, Nokia made it clear that in order to keep themselves alive in the mobile market, they would equip all their future devices with Windows Phone 7 OS, which itself raised a few eyebrows, as WP7 hadn’t really broken itself into the smartphone market (coincidentally, one can clearly see the similarities between Nokia and the WP7 OS in respect of the treatment both were meted out in the market).
Here’s the crux of this editorial though: I firmly believe that Nokia made the right choice when it came to the selection of the OS (read our recent review of a WP7 device to know more), which when coupled with the hopefully future N9-esque devices that Nokia produces, will breathe some fresh air into the mobile market. Of course, the entire success of this peculiar partnership will depend on the ability of Nokia to consistently come up with more devices that are like the N9, or even better. But one can’t help but get the feeling that Nokia will in fact pull up its socks and produce quality hardware, which of course has long (or had long!) been its strength.
There’s still one question remaining to be answered in this analysis though. If my prophecy does indeed come true, then at whose cost should this revival take place. I think one can safely say that webOS, BlackBerry OS and a slew of other insignificant OSes will surely bear the brunt. But what about iOS and Android. Which one of them will suffer. Here, I choose to take a gamble and say Android. Here’s why: the consistently excellent user experience of any iOS device, coupled with rumors of a future cheaper iPhone, may very well sound the death knell for the spec impressive but user experience so-so Android.
Of course, this is all speculation and discussion. What do you guys think?