Leadership

Nokia committed to two OS strategy, plans U.S. invasion

Nokia remains the 800-pound gorilla in the mobile market, but it is under intense pressure. One of Nokia's top mobile chiefs explains how the company plans to compete.

While Nokia remains the 800-pound gorilla in the mobile phone market, it is under intense pressure from the growth of the iPhone and Android platforms, and could soon come under additional pressure from the resurgence of Microsoft and BlackBerry.

Nokia vice president of mobile services Tero Ojanpera recently sat down with CNET's Molly Wood to talk about the current state of the mobile market and Nokia's larger strategy. Aided by reader emails, Molly did an excellent job in this 18-minute interview of challenging Ojanpera with the tough questions about the challenges that Nokia is facing, including whether it will adopt Android, how it can compete in apps, the company's internal turmoil, and its limited penetration in the U.S. market.

Ojanpera dodged a number of the questions and seemed a little bit in denial about the urgency of the situation for Nokia, but he did share some useful information. He made it clear that Nokia is committed to a two OS strategy (Symbian and MeeGo) and he said that the company is preparing to partner with GSM carriers in the U.S. to offer discounted phones that can compete on price with the top U.S. devices.

Watch the video and then jump into the discussion to share your thoughts on Nokia's strategy.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

40 comments
jkameleon
jkameleon

I use it as a book reader, navigation/maps, a bunch of other things, and... yea, I also make phone calls. My take: Small, cheap, roboust, very practical, very useable, especially handwriting recognition. It works surprisingly well. I tried to write an application for Symbian, just to see how it looks like, and quickly gave up. I wasn't even able to set up development tools. Since most of developers prefer to concentrate on applications, not tools & environment, such clumsiness is a huge setback for Symbian. At the moment, it's still user & resource friendly, but developer hostile. This will have to change, and I believe it will. In any case, I'm sticking with Symbian. With all that smarphone spying going on, I prefer to carry an open source OS in my pocket.

hksimonl
hksimonl

it is too little to late, isn't it?

mark
mark

The mobile OS market is already too crowded. It's going to be difficult for anything that is not iOS or Android to gain any traction at all, and Windows Phone 7, WebOS, and BlackBerry, all of which already have some presence in the US, are going to be trying to make the #3 position viable. Nokia just isn't going to manage to get the US to accept yet another OS; if they want to sell phones here they will have to abandon both Symbian and MeeGo and start making Android phones.

Yam Digger
Yam Digger

Symbian is old news, and what the hell is Meego? In order to compete with Android / iOS 4, they would have to have a universe of apps that would compete with with Adroid / iOS. Nokia would have to do some pretty serious catching up; and developers arent going to waste time with o.s. that's not being widely adopted.

sagorman1294
sagorman1294

Google will buy them and all known knowledge then build fiber linked data centers every 300 yards which will enable them to act as cell towers therebye conquering, equipment, content and distribution

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If it was Symbian native apps you had a go at, you may want to look at how the Ovi apps are produced. From what little I've read, it's basically a clean QT environment that seems to produce shiny Iphone/Android kind of applets. Your Ovi app will also work on Symbian, Maemo and Meego so your cover across phone types and into the next generation OS.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You mean that people have now already bought their cellphones and will stick with them? Forever? No? For ten years? No?!? For five years? Really, that's a stretch too, you say? So, how's it too late? They've been at 10% US penetration for how long? All that needs to change is that they find the right lever to pull. Apparently, they need to make shinier apps.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's fractured horribly between device vendors. "Jailbreaking" should mean downloading a single package from the repository that unlocks any Android based device, apps should not be model specific, a core distribution image should be available from Google with, at most, a driver bundle included in the firmware flashing rather than waiting for some vendor to eventually maybe provide an updated OS version in the rare case that they are not "promoting" your buying a newer device to get the latest software version. It hemorrhages information thanks to Google's own invasive ideas on privacy along with third party snoopware. Nokia dropping there own OS to adopt only Android would be the fastest way to loose customers. At present, they probably have the only software platform that actually leaves data within the device owner's possession by default.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

is starting to solidify. In the U.S., it's definitely looking like Android and iOS are emerging as the two leaders, with a lot of platforms destined to eventually fight for third place (RIM, WebOS, Windows Phone 7, MeeGo, etc.) However, the battle looks a little different internationally, with RIM (BlackBerry) and Nokia still holding the strongest hands because of their relationships with all of the international carriers.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I wouldn't be surprised to see NON of these current mobile operating systems around in another 10 years. Things change, face it, this is such a new and young marketplace still, it has many years to go before it will settle. Remember when RIM was absolutely unstoppable? Nobody would do better than RIM! Today they are just 'that Canadian company that still makes an OS for Blackberry'.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Old news? Symbian S60 is an excellent OS, and a gazillion FREE apps are available. They are not proprietary, updates are available as soon as the developer releases them etc. MeeGo is a nice looking OS also, again free apps, free updates. Sure Apple has been successful in selling to the sheeple that buy based on whatever ad sells them best, but it has along way to go before it is considered more than a novelty. Why should I change my business software that offers a free mobile app, just because Apple hasn't approved their mobile versions for me to BUY yet. Great for gadget kiddies and C-level wannabe's but not exactly a viable business device though. You sound.......young.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

without putting in the page numbers!

messinger
messinger

On the one hand, Nokia does need to be able to declare (and stick to) a commitment with one or two operating systems. Symbian and Meego will be fine. But, advancements in Symbian have been slow to come and some potential purchasers of phones like the recently-released N8 and the announced E7 have every reason to hesitate to part with their cash. With no certain upgrade path from Symbian^3 to S^4 on those devices. . . well, that's a lot of money with no carrier subsidy, if it's Nokia's plans to "take the US by storm." GSM phone makers have a real problem in the US, of course. It's either AT&T or T-Mobile. AT&T is notorious for crippling phone hardware (for example, the fine Sony Ericcson c905a ships with a wifi chip, inside, but AT&T has crippled it). And T-Mobile's network has less than first rate coverage. Bottom line? Nokia's top-end phones will probably not be coming to US shores with carrier subsidies. I think there's no doubt the flagship N8 is a great piece of hardware, burdened by lackluster software. Symbian users have been clamoring for a lot of improvements and HD video and Dolby sound aren't among those. But, we get that and not some of the features that would make these smartphones more useful, as personal information devices (among other things, I'm talking about the absence of any notion of "categories" in the Symbian OS - a concept the Palm OS had down, more than a decade ago). Until Nokia dramatically increases their capacity for improvement of their core operating systems - whatever OS's they select - their phones will continue to lose market share worldwide, and not just in the U.S.

Nels
Nels

I would love to see the adoption of the N900 more widely. I would take it over the iPhone or a Droid phone any day. It may not be for everyone, but the geeks would eat it up.

jkameleon
jkameleon

It's not much, I'm not an apps fan. It was all freebies: - A couple of book reading programs. My favorite. - AccuWeather. I use it a lot, because I walk to work. - Mosquito repeller (unbelievable, but it works) - stopwatch, timer, watch display (always useful) - Google maps (more detailed & accurate than Ovi) - Handwriting calculator. Pretty remarkable piece of code, even in beta version. - Flash light. Just shows white screen, but it got me out of trouble more than once - Encrypted storage for PINs, passwords, and such - Unit converter - Bar code reader I've downloaded & tried a lot of other stuff, but it wasn't useful. A lot of these apps (roughly half) is written in Flash, they are not native Symbian apps.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

The Ovi store used to be run by Nokia, but it is all but useless and dead now. It still physically exists but on newer phones (such as my Surge)they tell you that the Ovi store isn't a reliable place for downloads anymore and they send you to a new portal that is more of a forum style gathering of apps. There are far more apps available from Symbian download sites now, and little to nothing of any use left at the OVi store for S60 3rd gen now. Apps are everywhere now, for free. I have a friend who runs up $100 a month in apps for his i-Phone, he works for a telco so it's all free to him anyway though. I have many of the exact same apps, which I didn't pay for. On another note, it's funny how everyone complained about MS software costs and licences for decades, Windows vs open source for example, relicencing Windows products etc. But when they are locked in to a single source for apps which are generally free elsewhere, they defend it as being more secure, 'safer' etc. Funny how the tides turn when people want to follow a trend.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Shinier apps aren't Nokia's problem in the US. AT&T used to offer more Nokia phones than all the others combined, but slowly over the years AT&T stopped offering Nokia phones, might find one or two now. Not sure if Nokia didn't agree with the subsidies that others did or because the US felt a need to use different frequencies than the rest of the world and Nokia decided to concentrate on the world outside of the US. I've dropped my Nokia phones, sometimes in water, thrown them across rooms, and subjected them to way more abuse than many of my co-workers non-Nokia phones could even dream about handling, so it's not that the phones are crap more about advertising. Apple advertises the iPhone all over and the Android phones are advertised by the carriers for the manufacturers, which is what Nokia needs to sell more phones.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

People KNOW Nokia makes a really good sounding phone, mikes are good too. I'd be interested to see which is more durable too, i-Phone or Nokia, Nokia's to me have been dropped, kicked, stepped on, DRIVEN over, etc. and I've never had one break or fail (not even the glass). I haven't tested the i-Phone for ruggedness but I'd guess that it wouldn't stand up to Nokia. So as a business tool, which will be more prone to replacement, which costs more in the long run? Of course they aren't intended to be rugged devices, but that stuff costs a near mint n comparison.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm still not sure how they didn't eat the market alive with the N900. Nokia really should have released it into more markets at a more affordable price. For me, the delay was getting one available in Canada at an affordable price; 700$ from Tigerdirect wasn't affordable and they where still asking 600 or more after Nokia's own US site dropped the price (but only ships to US addresses). After three or more months with it, the only glitch I'm finding is a delay in the phone app kicking in when I've got it doing a crapload of other stuff; four email accounts and three IM accounts on wifi while music is playing and in comes a phone call. But, with 64 GeeBees.. I dwarf the Iphone's storage and haven't yet use half the dedicated app storage space. The only outstanding install is Metasploit which doesn't seem to like the Maemo packaged Ruby (not remotely a general user app though). My only guess is that they shot themselves in the foot by not releasing in more markets, releasing at a high price in the few they did sell in (bit of Europe and US) and announcing that it was the last of the Maemo devices when they didn't have a mature Meego release to drop on an N910 within the same month. The irony is that Maemo is what Android claims to be; truly open Linux based mobile OS that premotes tinkering among those who choose to while supporting a stock image for those who don't want to tinker. Here's hoping Meego is production ready soon while they can still attract developers to the Ovi market (and, hopefully port as much as possible from the existing Maemo repositories).

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

the software really holds it back. I've used the N800, N810, and N900 (glad they added phone capability) and I think it's a terrific form factor with a lot of potential. (Dell seems to think the same thing because the Dell Streak feels much like a copy of the Nokia N900.) Unfortunately, I feel like the software really gets in the way on the N900. It's just not very intuitive or usable. If the software were better, it could be a great device, especially for business users.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Luckily I live in Canada and they are everywhere already. a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens? Get real, that's a $400 Sony camera! Light years ahead of i-Phone all around, I suppose it goes to show the white knuckled grasp that Apple has on the US carriers.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I visit maemo.org for the what's new app list but actual install/uninstall I do through the local package manager and repositories; even have aptitude for updating by cli depending on my mood. Thinking back to the PalmOS days though, I did like the massive but decentralized app library to choose from.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

The old OVI store was immense, it was more of a free forum though, they have tweaked it to be more like the i-Store now rather than looking like an open source developers site. I stick to the free symbian sites, same and more apps, better support, more updates, etc.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've supplemented my Maemo selection with a few Ovi free apps. The apps are clean and shiny. Otherwise, I'm going on what I've read. So Ovi was a much larger library in more of an app selection site previously? I remember Symbian being much more like old PalmOS with apps all over the place and in a few download.com type sites. (hm.. could be a shame, the Ovi cross platform QT base sounds like it holds a lot of potential)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

But seeing as how the carriers aren't likely going away anytime soon, a device that can skip-jump-slide from carrier to carrier would probably be popular. It would give some power back to the consumers too.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

"Sure we'll feed X thousands of your Iphones to our customers.. can you make it only work on our network though?" Markets like europe where the carrier can't dictate what cell technologies the phone can work with seem to show that carriers in the US have way to much influence on the devices. A can opener and some clever marketing wouldn't hurt either though.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

for the US-markets, that's a given. Why they need one, that I don't know, but it's clear that a mcguffin is called for. Whether they want to go do that, that's another question.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

From what I know, the biggest difference is in the hardware chips isn't it? You just need the hardware capable of groking the different cell technologies. If it is a simple software radio then even better; just write the software stock that can deal with whatever cell tech it's pointed at. Software could easily be updated with a firmware image or package download even.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

What would it take to make a phone that groks, fundamentally, all the different basic carrier technologies (and not just GSM)...

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

that appearance and functionality aren't patentable... you'd think someone would make a better widget for them, eh?

techrepublic
techrepublic

I've been buying my Nokia phones from a store in NYC, mobilecityonline.com, and the prices are competitive with or lower than ebay and other such places. The store sells mainly GSM phones and accessories, but some CDMA phones also. All the GSM phones are unlocked and while some are US version/Non-US version the rest are quad-band world phones.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I pretty much stuck with my T5 until the battery needed time to charge mid way through the day (and it was baught brand new) because I couldn't find a real replacement until the N800. But, that also does make Maemo much more familiar for me to the point that the N900 was the only "bridging" device for me until Meego matures. Very interesting though.. we'll see what they can do with that (and I'll try to get over my hate for .rpm though Sinister's VM has reaffirmed much of it).

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I've picked up two for Rogers customers (1 Fido)already and they are heavy data users. Definitely a revolutionary device though, but I'll wait a year or to yet I think. It's be interesting to see where Maemo gets to in that time.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Running solid on Rogers here. I was just going to check Tigerdirect for the link they had under "make sure the phone works with your provider" title but they seem to be out of stock again. I was making a daily visit to search for "N900" last time they where out of stock and I was still looking. hmm.. I should have saved the url somewhere. They had a list of what the N900 supported with a link to a list of telco and what each of them supported so one could cross reference. I can't confirm by provider but from the phone side, 3G shouldn't be a problem: 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 3G Network HSDPA 900 / 1700 / 2100 Announced 2009, August Status Available. Released 2009, November http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_n900-2917.php

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Our cost $285.00, they generally sell for just over $800 unlocked and you can throw them on any carriers network, Edge for sure but I don't know about 3G. I got three for friends recently (1 on Fido, 2 on Rogers) but I just got my phone a while back so I am in no hurry for the 900 myself.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

American Telephone and Telegraph Other carriers/resellers use AT&T for just that purpose, to offer the i-Phone. The carriers in the US are a complete mess, deregulation was so screwed up there that it used to split four carriers to call the next state. In essence, everyone just piggy backs on AT&T's network and offers it as their own, much as Fido does with Rogers Canada, or many older carriers that went the way of the dodo bird. There are many outlets for i-Phones, many "carriers" they are sold under but in the end it's all AT&T they are buying access from. If you want to sell i-Phone you have to sell AT&T' services. Apple completely controls the US mobile market though and the flood gates have been opened: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-01-25/apple-may-release-iphone-to-all-u-s-carriers-oppenheimer-says.html

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I checked the list of supported cell types before buying. You've got great potential for non-AT&T comparability if you can get an unlocked one. Oz, you had N900s all over your area? Aside from Tigerdirect's 700$ price tag, the only source I could find was Ebay with maybe two shipping from .ca sellers. I'm envious if you had more sources at a better price.

roaming
roaming

I'm not in the US but I'm quite sure from what I've read that they are only with AT&T there.