What's in Nokia's future?

by Volker Weber

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Nokia writes:

If you thought Symbian^3 was a short-lived stepping stone in Nokia’s smartphone evolution, then you’d be ... well ... mistaken. Starting with the N8, Nokia aims to ship more than 50 million Symbian^3 devices in the coming years, alongside devices using other versions of the Symbian OS.

This looks like a contradiction to the Symbian roadmap which states:

Symbian^4 is expected in 2010. It will feature Direct UI - a complete makeover of the touch UI, Qt as the primary runtime and the majority of SHAI in place, making hardware adaptation easier than ever before.

Let's just briefly look at those ^numbers. ^1 is Symbian OS 9.4 with S60 5th edition. It's what runs devices like the N97, N97 mini or the 5800. ^2 is the first open source version of Symbian, and there are only a few DoCoMo devices with this version. ^3 is what the N8 pictured above will run.

And while I expect the N8 to be a great successor to the 5800, I just cannot see the software to be good enough to compete with iPhone or Android devices. Symbian needs to get to ^4 in order to fix the UI. So in contrast to what Nokia just said about ^3, I do think it's a stepping stone when the N8 comes out in September. Funny I should say that, but ^3 is going to be the legacy Symbian version. It will run the old software out there, on ever cheaper devices.

This is not "game over" for Nokia in the smartphone space. But it is going to take until 2011 before Nokia can come back with ^4 and Meego. They will both run applications built to the new UI, and maybe, just maybe ^4 is not going to matter anymore and Meego is the future for Nokia.

Comments

I'm not a smartphone expert, but it looks to me like Nokia has lost its direction and momentum and is headed to become as irrelevant as Palm became a couple of years ago.

Given their minimal market share in the USA (I use SplashID - developed and sold by a US company - to store passwords etc. on my phone, and they justify the fact that they have stopped developing the Nokia version by saying there is no demand for it any more), it won't surprise me if they are completely irrelevant world-wide in a couple of years time.

I certainly don't expect to ever buy a Nokia phone again, and I have been using Nokia phones almost continuously since the 90's until a month or so ago.

John Keys, 2010-07-23 08:37

I can pick a new phone with my contract at work in September, and I could pick the iPhone, but would rather have either an old- style Nokia with some email functions, it was all I needed so far and actually talking on those was much nicer, or was it not?

Seeing this, what are the differences for these three Nokia examples:
Nokia E5 / Symbian 9.3 / S60 3.2
Nokia C6 / Symbian 9.4 / S60 5.0
Nokia C3 / S40 9.2 (just for curiousity, lacks 3G completely anyway)

I got my E51 very few months before the E52 and E75 (argh) came out, would not like to have that happen again. The C6 is not that bad, but from what I read above I want to go for a non- restricted app store and Android will rock 5 times more than any Nokia phone will for the next 6-9 months maybe?

How good then will Symbian 9.4 be?

Lots of questions, but surely I am not the only one to ask that.

Alexander Koch, 2010-07-23 08:55

Just ignore the fact that I'm a strict "NOKIA-only" user: John, with all respect, but the U.S. market is by far not representative for the whole world. As by now, Nokia's smartphone market share is about the same as RIM, Apple and HTC together and it's still growing. Here is the link for the figures.

Mathias Ziolo, 2010-07-23 09:28

Alexander,

without looking up the phone, S60 versions give it away. 3.2 is a keyboard device without touch screen. 5.0 is a ^1 device, the S40 is not a smartphone but a feature phone.

Mathias,

don't insult John by suggesting he could be American. ;-) The fact that Nokia does not really exist in the US hurts developer relations. Symbian is no longer on the radar. It's basically a two horses race for software: iPhone and Android. Even RIM is struggling, but they are doing better than Symbian or Windows Mobile. Future software, not existing.

Volker Weber, 2010-07-23 09:44

I used to own the 770, N800 and N810, liked all of them and still have high hopes for Meego, because it does so many things just right from a developer perspective.

But I passed on the N900 and now, I'm waiting for that upcoming Meego device with an HTC Desire in my hand.

Hanno Zulla, 2010-07-23 12:38

If you get a Nokia today, you should choose the E72. Similiar to the E5, but less plastic.

Christian Just, 2010-07-23 13:23

@Mathias - as Volker notes, I am not American, but a Brit living in Germany :-)
I too have been a loyal Nokia user (I still own an E51 and an E71).

However, the "broken" software update process described by Volker recently, the clumsy user interface for the non-touch-screen devices which often involves clicking through menu entries just to stop an application running, and a poorly functioning Ovi Store, which no longer attracts developers from the USA doesn't give me any hope for Nokia's long term future.

John Keys, 2010-07-23 16:20

@John and Volker:

Yes, very sorry for that, I just wanted to mention the US fact ;)

Well, and the Ovi Store, hmm, I didn't really use that at any time. I used Google for good applications and stuck on about four or five without the need for more. However I understand that developers cannot be engaged in projects without rentability.

Mathias Ziolo, 2010-07-23 19:36

@Mathias - the cited market share analysis comparing Apple and Nokia has as much value as a comparison between BMW and Honda. Yes Honda has greater market share overall, but that is because it makes a much broader range of products, only a fraction of which occupy a similar luxury niche as BMW (or so this Acura owner would like to think :-) ).

Show me a market share analysis between Nokia's high-end touchscreen, multimedia devices and the iPhone or Android devices and then we'll have something to talk about.

Kevin Pettitt, 2010-07-23 20:07

too many OS versions. For which one should we develop?

marco foellmer, 2010-07-24 17:46

I think my N97 Mini is the last Nokia I will ever have; what a horrible phone that is. The software is slow, buggy, cumbersome, complicated.

Today I saw the HTC Wildfire, and maybe I should get that one. Any experience here with the Wildfire?

Eva Quirinius, 2010-07-26 00:37

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vowe.net is a personal website published by Volker Weber a.k.a. vowe. I am an author, consultant and systems architect based in Darmstadt, Germany.

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