Last year the newly appointed head of Nokia issued a famous letter in which it stated that they were standing on the decks of a burning platform . Although they were correct in identifying most of the faults, they decided to go with a bold “make or break” strategy of tying up with Windows to develop a series of smartphones running the Windows Mobile OS.
As I wrote in an earlier post, it is the responsibility of large companies like Nokia, Google and Windows to sponsor innovation because they have both the size and the financial stomach to weather short term losses for the long term benefits. However Nokia sought to discontinue both MeeGo, which could have provided alternatives and Symbian , which had been their bread and butter O/S for a long time. The problem with discontinuing a remarkable O/S like Symbian is that it effectively tied the fates of Nokia to the effectiveness of Windows Mobile. In a starkly mobile world, where we have much more focus on effective streaming of content and data, followed by maximum detail on social channels, Nokia has chosen to place their eggs in two baskets with their phones providing some facilities aimed at ordinary customers while also trying to appease higher end more business oriented customers.
The problem for Nokia is that they fail to identify the target audience of customers correctly . Rather than aim for the ordinary customer who wants ease of use, comfort and maybe a slight cool factor(iPhone, HTC and Samsung ), Nokia needs to aim at the market of business executives. With RIM dying fast, there is a great opportunity in this market. If Nokia works with Windows to develop secure versions of Office, Outlook and other suites, there is a great chance Nokia can sell this package to firms along with the opportunity to build long term contracts in the B2B domain, much like what Windows has done for the last few decades in the business computing space.
Another serious problem faced by Nokia is their disinterest in pursuing alternative markets. For example, one of their best selling phones some years back was the Ngage which was a gaming phone. Even though lots of people find Angry Birds and Snake perfectly fine to play on an ordinary phone , there is an untapped market of gamers who would enjoy a gaming phone. Nokia has both the technical knowhow of preparing gaming phones and now a partnership with Windows which provides them access to XBox based games. With the gaming market growing every year, specially in developing nations, there is a great scope for Nokia to adopt this as an alternative market which can provide them with a fall back option in the long run.
Nokia’s latest phones have not really been up to scratch and the possibility looms that unless Nokia and Windows do some soul searching and decide to stop being the follower and become the invader,Nokia might just end up like the people in the Charge of the Light Brigade.