New phones, new owner won’t save the Nokia Brand

In 2002, Nokia was number two in the list of super brands in Britain. by 2010 it was 89th.

In 2010 Nokia, sold 450 million handsets, outselling Apple 10 to one. In 2012 the firm sold 16 million of its flagship Lumia handsets. In the same period, Samsung sold 384 mobile phones while Apple sold 125 million iPhones.

By 2010 Nokia’s mobile phone market share had slid from 36.4 percent share in 2009 to 28.9%. Nokia still sells more mobile phones than any other company but consumers no longer want mobile phones, they want smartphones.

And at the heart of the smartphone is the operating system. By January 2011, Google’s Android, and its Chinese versions Tapas and OMS had become the top smartphone platform in the world with an 888% year-over-year growth.

Nokia’s Symbian system was a very close second with Research in Motion a distant third and Apple’s iOS way back in fourth. Microsoft’s mobile operating system barely warranted a mention with 4% of the market.

Under pressure in a market it once dominated Nokia panicked. Realising the key to smartphone sales is the OS, it began to muck about with Symbian, a perfectly good OS with no more flaws than the iOS.

But because of the now huge size of the organisation, issues bought up during the testing of touch screens and browsers were often ignored.

Desperate, Nokia launched the N-Gage with too few poor quality games and terrible network connectivity for multiplayers, the phone was blown away by the PSP and DS.

Next came another disaster, the Ovi. Nokia’s answer to the iTunes Store was an unmitigated disaster. In 2007, Nokia restarted its touchscreen development after deciding in 2006 that touchscreens were essentially a gimmick!

This delay meant that the N95 and N97, both good smartphones in their own right and with email, music players, the Internet and GPS as well as a slide out Querty keyboard were supposed to compete with the increasingly dominant and cool iPhone. Sadly they didn’t get anywhere near it.

Next up, the beautiful N8, launched in 3Q2010. Someone described the N8 as engineering porn with a 12 megapixel camera good enough for professional photographers. But the N8 was outsold 6 to one in Europe and did even worse in the tech savvy, gadget hungry and fast growing Asian markets.

By now frantic, no hysterical Nokia tried a completely new Linux based OS called MeeGo but it’s corporate heart wasn’t in it and MeeGo only got a year.

In October 2011, in what was seen by many to be a last throw of the dice, Nokia teamed up with Microsoft and launched the partnership with a US$112m global brand repositioning campaign launch of its first phone running on the Windows 7 operating system.

This was a big mistake. Microsoft’s Phone 7 had already launched in Q4/2010 on about twelve handsets from a number of manufacturers. During the quarter it achieved a meagre 1.5 million sales, earning it about a 2% market share and worse than Windows Mobile which had 4%.

During the same period, the latest version of Symbian (the all new user-friendly touch screen version that powers the N8) was launched on 3 Nokia smartphones and sold 5 million units. All Symbian products sold a respectable 32 million units.

The six month repositioning campaign, that was meant to regain lost market share from rivals Android, Apple and Blackberry failed and was soon consigned to the overflowing but ever popular positioning graveyard in the sky.

Yesterday on 21st October 2013, in a valiant but misguided attempt to steal some of Apple’s thunder, Nokia unveiled 2 new 6 inch window smartphones. These new smartphones are well designed and as always, have great hardware including a sensational camera, an app that displays the contents of the phone on a PC and more than one microphone.

Right phone, wrong OS
Right phone, wrong OS

These new phones, developed before the decision to sell the handset business to Microsoft for US$7.4 billion was made, could give Android and iOS phones a serious run for their money. Except there is a problem. The problem is that these great products run on Windows mobile. And Windows is a dying brand. Widows mobile owns only 4% of the global market. And that is unlikely to change.

Windows is a dying brand
Windows is a dying brand

Today, Windows mobile products don’t come close to delivering the experience Android and Apple smartphone products offer. And that won’t change. And if Nokia can’t offer a compelling experience, Nokia (or Microsoft) can’t save the Nokia brand.


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