Nokia’s decision to bet on Windows’ phones signals the company’s bid to claw its way back into the market, writes Rodney Chester
NOKIA’S plan to rise from the ashes is to stick with Microsoft’s Windows on its phones but to follow Apple’s system of offering an ‘‘ ecosystem’’ of products that could include a tablet.
Nokia’s chief executive officer Stephen Elop visited Australia to outline his vision of how the oncedominant company can claw its way back to a double- digit market share.
Elop is unwilling to put a timeline on that goal and the challenge is substantial.
Research firm Gartner says only 2.4 per cent of mobile phones sold worldwide in the last quarter of 2012 were Windows’ phones, compared with 72.4 per cent for Google Android and 13.9 per cent for Apple.
Nokia’s first step towards widening its product range is the addition of the Lumia 620, which will be available in Australia shortly for $ 329.
In the longer term, Elop says Nokia will have a broad portfolio that could include a tablet, perhaps even a 7- inch and a 10- inch similar to Apple’s iPad range.
‘‘ We haven’t announced tablets at this point but it’s something we’re clearly looking at very closely,’’ Elop says.
Since Elop took over Nokia in late 2010, he has overseen a dramatic change, beginning with his company- wide memo in which he described Nokia as being on a ‘‘ burning platform’’ and faced with staying and perishing in the flames or leaping off to find a new direction.
Elop’s leap meant Nokia phased- out the Symbian and MeeGo operating systems and aligned with Microsoft as the favoured partner for Windows phones.
The reaction to Elop’s agenda has been passionate, with some praising him as the company’s saviour while others lambast him as having thrown the baby out with the bath water in ditching Nokia’s software.
Elop says he doesn’t Google himself very often as ‘‘ it’s really not helpful’’, but he is not backing down from the decision to pair Nokia with Windows.
‘‘ When we made the decision to place a bet on Windows Phone it was very clear to me that we had to, as quickly and as aggressively as we possibly could, shift the focus of the company into a new direction,’’ he says.
‘‘ When a business person or a consumer is purchasing a smartphone today, what they are actually buying is much more than what you see in your hand.
‘‘ They’re also buying the full range of applications that may be available for the device. Mapping, navigation, music, entertainment, unified communications, office productivity, on and on.’’
Elop says Nokia is offering an ecosystem that hopes to be seen as the main alternative to Apple’s iOS or the Android system on Samsung devices.
‘‘ Anyone coming into the market today with something new, in order to be successful, I believe, will need that whole ecosystem and there’s a lot more to it than just the device itself.’’
He says prior to switching to Windows, Nokia was investing a huge amount of resources into its own operating systems which he called ‘‘ underlying plumbing’’.
That effort, he says, was misdirected because it was not the area where the company would win the market- share battle.
‘‘ Our research and development effort is now heavily biased towards those things that make us stand out,’’ Elop says.
Two of those key areas, which Elop emphasised within minutes of walking into a room of Australian journalists, was Nokia’s strength in mapping, particularly compared to the flop of Apple Maps, and the Lumia 920’ s capabilities as a camera.
Elop’s visit to Australia came days after the launch of the new BlackBerry phone and operating system.
The Canadian Nokia chief declined to comment directly on BlackBerry, a Canadian company, and its hopes to come back from obscurity but he pointed out the area where he feels Nokia holds the advantage.
‘‘ Photography is one example where we can make a big difference and you can put our device next to everyone else, including some of the ones just announced in the last day or so, and say ‘ Boom this is so much better’,’’ he said.