Home > Nokia > Nokia’s Smartphone Strategy in the right direction? – Intellectual exchange between Robert Scoble and Tomi Ahonen

Nokia’s Smartphone Strategy in the right direction? – Intellectual exchange between Robert Scoble and Tomi Ahonen

If you’re not familiar with the name Tomi Ahonen then you should be. Calling Tomi simply one of the best mobile industry analysts would not do him justice and is one of the rare few to see the light at the frequently mentioned “doomed” Nokia tunnel.

In this still major transition stage at Espoo, it is difficult to see for anyone with out heaps of patience for Nokia to see where they’re going. For a company so passionate in connecting people, they are possibly the worst at communicating their strengths and strategies with the public. The latter I can only fathom is Nokia’s over secrecy.

Today, Tomi Ahonen wrote an epic piece of what could deservedly be several chapters in one of his books, which I had planned on summarising. Basically, Tomi reckons Nokia has the best strategy migrating dumbphones to smartphones and why they need to stick with Symbian and MeeGo. He goes on to dispel the misconceptions about Nokia, and the portrayal of this “dying and loosing” behemoth that’s outperforming its adjacent competitors COMBINED.

Everyone loves to see the top guy knocked off their perch. It’s always awesome to read the next “Nokia is doomed article, Nokia should go Android…blah blah blah”. Any time there’s negative news on Nokia it’s a celebration. Some even going as far as to skew poll results (i.e. Android “overtaking” Symbian in Asia where CHINA and INDIA and several other countries are not included. I don’t even want to begin pointing out where that’s just wrong).

Anyway, you can read this for yourself – bear in mind it is quite long and there’s a little more to this story than this first link.


Robert Scoble, Scobleizer (he doesn’t really need an introduction) wrote a response (cheers Nikolaj)


Basically, Robert sees Nokia as a headless chicken. His perception on Nokia’s strategy is:

1. Attack Apple. Er, attack America. Make it a “Europe vs. America” thing.
2. Talk about all the cool things they are gonna do for us.
3. Don’t show off anything new.
4. Arrogantly insist they are OK and will dominate in smartphones.
5. Insist that Meego will save the world.
6. Say that there’s a “Cupertino distortion field” happening. Funny line. But isn’t good strategy.

Robert says he did not see any apps targeting Nokia platform at LeWeb, therefore Nokia is doomed. If you don’t have apps, you’re doomed.  Ovi Store apps are growing in numbers and quality. 3M to 3.5M in 3 weeks in daily download. It would be FOOLISH to ignore such an enormous hungry crowd of mobile app users. We (Nokia users) have money we’d like to dish out too if your app is good enough. But that’s the key – can people develop on the Nokia platform? Symbian? Hmm. What about Qt? More on this at the end.

On the “cupertino distortion field” that’s in Reference to Marko Ahtisaari  who, to be fair, didn’t really explain the context of why he said such a thing (see this post). We know it’s happening. I made a tongue-in-cheek post a while back on what Nokia could learn from Job’s Apple Keynotes.

Essentially, perception about your product is almost equal to the reality/actual merit of your product. Nokia’s had every opportunity to crush every emerging new competitor if only the world was aware at the time how good Nokia’s products were. Now it gets harder as the competition gets even stronger but there is still plenty of time in this one facet that is mind share. It’s not so much a need to be boastful, arrogant to the extent of blatantly lying, but to be confident, direct and clear about your strengths as a company.

And before I reach the proportions of Tomi’s own post (as much as I’d love to, I haven’t ranted in a looong while) here is Tomi’s response to Robert Scoble:


I won’t discuss what Tomi’s written, though I will quote a couple of the comments that’ll give some perspective on App Development and Qt on Nokia’s side:

Not enough credit is given to Qt, which has been spoiling developers for more than a decade.

With Qt Quick available (and I’ll admit it’s not quite, although almost, there yet on Symbian) there is no such thing anymore as a “Symbian device” for developers; it’s a Qt device. I may not know much about strategy analysis, but I do know development, and things do not get much better than what Nokia is working round the clock on right now (yes, you can follow the public bug tracker, task lists and repositories yourself).

If the horrible Symbian C++ got as much traction as it did, just wait what a proper API, one that’s actually a pleasure to use, is going to provide. Did you catch the recent release of the Push Notification (Qt) API, free to use for all? Combined with operator billing and a 1€ barrier of entry for the Ovi Store.

I’ll even throw in a bonus: within a year you can write Android apps in Qt, including the Qt mobility API. Unofficially of course.

Give it 6 months for Qt Quick and tools to be polished for Symbian, for Symbian to implement some of the S^4 improvements (font server), and Ovi Store to be set up to allow 4.7 based apps, and there is the most attractive mobile development platform, right there

– Don

Looking good for Nokia? But that is if Apps really is the differentiator and the king maker. Tomi Disagrees:

– I appreciate the comments, thanks. But I have to be ‘against’ it – to remain consistent to my view haha. I do not think apps, nor developers, decide who wins in smartphones. QT will help Nokia do better – to some degree – but it will not decide the battle either. It only helps get some developers to do Nokia platform (Symbian/MeeGo/Ovi) better/easier than in the past. But if I argue apps are not the key to win – as I am certian they aren’t – then even if QT is the best solution, they won’t help Nokia too much. It really is other things, especially carrier relations, which decide.

It’s late and I have missed out too many points so I suggest (if you have time) to read over the exchange between Tomi and Robert (comments too at Tomi’s blog).

As with anything like this, all we can really do is wait. Just rewatched the new Star Trek Movie – is it sad that of all the things I could do with time travel – seeing what happens with MeeGo should not have been the first thought. Well that Nokia phone at the start of the Movie did kind of seed the Nokia thought.

Categories: Nokia Tags: ,
  1. December 14, 2010 at 2:40 am

    So the most important thing in a smartphone is, launching apps?
    Pfft typical american.

    • December 14, 2010 at 4:19 am

      I don’t even know who Robert is and I’m an American. I’m proud of that fact, I have moronic idjits who think they know best. Typical American outlook, with the exception of me of course, I really do know best! 😀

      Over here in America, it’s all about appearance and flash, not substance and functionality! Like how we work, tally our housing sector, do our politics, teach our children. It’s not OK if someone calls our kid fat, but damn we will bring heaven down to earth if someone bans happy meals.

      • December 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

        Very typical american I must say.

        • Jim
          December 14, 2010 at 10:02 am

          I’m not an american but I really don’t understand why is this fight between US and Europe, between Us and the rest of the world. I travel a lot around the world and I found that people are the same no matter where they are born.

    • Johnny Tremaine
      December 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      A smart phone without applications is a feature phone.

  2. Don
    December 14, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I am honored to have gotten a personal reply 🙂

    Very fascinating predications. Makes sense that in 2-3 years all app stores basically carry all the same apps (or those covering 99% of needs).

    Now for the stock price to start agreeing with this article.. uggh.. 🙂

  3. Average Joe
    December 14, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I remember the iPhone was successful even when it had no “apps”, and Steve Jobs said “its SDK is Safari”. I also remember that back then, since the iPhone had no 3G, analysts spat rivers of ink to demonstrate that 2G was better than 3G for web pages because it had less latency 😀 . Of course, that stopped being true when a 3G-capable iPhone was out.
    Thesis: analysts just jump on the winner’s wagon and I don’t trust their foresight.

  4. Rant
    December 14, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Just read Tomi’s piece and Scoble’s reply, about to start on Tomi’s reply. But what an America Scoble is, that reply from is just moronic and short sighted, overly saturated with ranting against Nokia.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do see that NOkia has problems and need to improve for 2011 but Scoble is just ranting and cluelessly concluding that Nokia is doomed.

    • Rant
      December 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

      Not to forget, the man wrote an app-centric piece. Apps or your dead, plain short sighted if you ask me. I firmly believe that apps are reserved to some specific use cases and most others will transition to web based as soon as mobile devices start providing a better web experience.

      But then again, I could be wrong. 😛

  5. Joshua
    December 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    But one thing most people also forget is that apart some fancy looking apps or games a real Nokia smartphone does not need any app, it just runs out of the box and does all you need without blinking an eye or looking for app todo basic and other functional things. The other platforms does not have the versatile and functionality of he Nokia Symbian Eco system so they bash it hard. But a real Symbian uses does not find comfort in any other. OS cos the lack zoo many things we take for granted on Symbian.

    • Johnny Tremaine
      December 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      You just described an S40 dumbphone, and that’s fine, but like I said above, a platform that can’t run new mobile applications except for a web browser, is not a smartphone.

      • December 14, 2010 at 10:02 pm

        Is it? I’d like to have an intelligent conversation on that statement Johnny.

        “A platform that can’t run new mobile applications is not a smart phone.”

        Pick any medium you like, anyone else want in on this? I plan on making log available to anyone interested.

  6. Georg
    December 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Apart from all the rest, there’s one thing I’m getting sick of hearing from the Nokia fanboys: Nokia is still number one and does better than its 2 closest comptetitors.
    That may be true but have you guys ever thought about how they can be number 1?
    Personally I am interested in S3 and Meego and I suppose 90% or more of you are too, I don’t give anything for the past, I look to the future- the future of Smartphones, which is why I don’t give a rats behind how many 1100s Nokia is selling in India or the Philipines.
    This blog is about smartphones! At least that’s the impression I got.

    • Rant
      December 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

      True, I don’t see why people are defending Nokia with irrelevant facts from the past.

      – Videcalling was on Nokia in 2005
      – Internet enabled devices were there in 2001
      – Touchscreens were made by Nokia back in 2003

      All well and true, and they do show that Nokia is (or was) capable of new revolutionary things, but lately they haven’t really shown any of that innovation. OK, granted the N8 image sensor is truly amazing.

      While Nokia is number one now and may well stay there for a few years the likes of HTC and Samsung should not be underestimated. Particularly HTC has een an immense growth over the last few years albeit in the more smartphone region rather than the big volume phones. Point is they are working on a rise of sales.

      So is Samsung which is more of a competitor than HTC is, a lot of the Samsungs shortcomings are starting to change. For instance they are getting better at updating FW/SW now.

      While being number one does matter, it is a question about how long they can hold their position with such a big margin over competitors.

      • Georg
        December 14, 2010 at 2:18 pm

        Exactly. When I think back to 2008 when I got my N78- 2,5 years ago, Nokia was number 1 in my mind, no question there. HTC was nobody and Samsung made mostly cheapish and colorful Playphones.
        Today, only 2 and a hlaf years later, those 2 make the phones that most people think of as cool. That’s how fast this industry moves and how little people give for the past. After all, the target audience for these devices is getting ever younger.

      • Average Joe
        December 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

        “True, I don’t see why people are defending Nokia with irrelevant facts from the past.”

        Because the media keeps saying that they are dead / old / irrelevant / doomed. Reminding them that no, they aren’t irrelevant yet, they even are the number one so far, is legitimate defense, and can never be too much, because a lie told many times becomes a truth. Of course, resting on the laurels as Nokia did after the N95 was a mistake, but that’s another story.

        “All well and true, and they do show that Nokia is (or was) capable of new revolutionary things, but lately they haven’t really shown any of that innovation.”

        But when the same “innovation” is conveyed today, years after, by another brand, it magically becomes revolutionary again. Take video calling: when it was introduced years ago, the general consensus was that nobody wanted to use it. Now it gets reinvented, albeit with several limitations, by another company, who gives it a fancy name, and it becomes the greatest thing since sliced bread.

        I think Nokia can learn from this – for example they gave a nice, marketable name “ClearBlack” to the polarised displays they’re applying on their phones, and the feedback from both the press and the buyers was good.

        And by the way, this is an innovation from Nokia, isn’t it? As pentaband 3G is. They should have marketed it as “WorldSurfer” or something like that 😀 .

        “So is Samsung which is more of a competitor than HTC is, a lot of the Samsungs shortcomings are starting to change. For instance they are getting better at updating FW/SW now.”

        And yet they still “haven’t decided” if their flagship Android phone will be upgraded to Gingerbread (which is just a minor update).

        Anyway, I agree with you that Samsung is the bigger competitor for Nokia. Who knows what nice devices we might see from them if they release Meego handsets.

        • Rant
          December 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

          I see what you mean, lies told by the media should indeed be corrected.
          And the whole Nokia is dead concensus lately is just utterly moronic, but in that insanity lies a little truth.

          With S3 Nokia does show it is willing to fight again. But most of the current opinions are still based on v5 models since S3 devices haven’t really reached enough people.
          I think if Nokia plays it right the supposed January update will shut some people up about Symbian if Nokia tries hard enough.

          About the videocalling thing, that is indeed a bit daft. Apple (or a company as you say) pretends they invented it just because the tech isn’t used that much. More or less they are calling it their invention, not litterally but kind of.

          Regarding Samsung; the Galaxy S line might as well been stuck with 2.1 if they just continued with their normal SW/FW policy, but they decided to do good and please a lot of customers. 2.3 is more of a geek thing than mainstream demand, 2.2 was more a change than 2.3 relative to previous itterations IIRC.

          My whole point is that Nokia haven’t been movind fast enough while the ‘young guns’ like HTC and Samsung have significantly moved over the last few years. In this perspective past innovations and inventions don’t really matter for future developments.
          A nice phrase about that is: results from the past aren’t guarantee’s for the future!

          • Rant
            December 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm

            And you are right with the CBD thing, very good innovation and a noticable one unlike the Pentaband radio which is more usefull for Nokia themselves (regional production) and a small group of globetrotters.

          • despisethesun
            December 15, 2010 at 10:17 pm

            Pentaband 3G is useful for more than just globe-trotters. In North America, the big GSM providers use different frequencies for their 3G networks. The situation isn’t as bad in Canada (Rogers/Bell/Telus all use 850/1900, while the smaller new entrants are on AWS), but in the US, if you’re using a GSM phone, your phone is likely to only be compatible with AT&T’s 3G or T-Mobile’s, not both.

  7. Georg
    December 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Average Joe :
    Take video calling: when it was introduced years ago, the general consensus was that nobody wanted to use it. Now it gets reinvented, albeit with several limitations, by another company, who gives it a fancy name, and it becomes the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Well maybe it wasn’t ready yet and now it is. I think even today on most networks it’ll be a bumpy experience. But back in, what, 2006 or 2007? It was just a pain.

    Average Joe :
    And yet they still “haven’t decided” if their flagship Android phone will be upgraded to Gingerbread (which is just a minor update).
    Anyway, I agree with you that Samsung is the bigger competitor for Nokia. Who knows what nice devices we might see from them if they release Meego handsets.

    Ok, that is one mistake by Sammy, wanna start how many stupid decisions Nokia took in the last 2 years? That’s not really a valid point, sorry.

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  9. john
    December 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Nokia faild in 2010. 3 Magazines sum um the mobile market, biggest fail was the N8 in 2010… sorry Nokia – try harder next time. And hey – from all people I know, none has got the N8. And I know only a few ppl with Iphags… that’s a bitter pill Nokia has to swallow.. =)

  10. December 16, 2010 at 7:48 am

    That analyst is short-sighted!

    He said Apps don’t play a key feature in smartphones. For Windows Mobile we called them 3rd Party Programs (eg TomTom Navigator), for Symbian it was jar’s, for Maemo it was packages. If all you want from your smartphone is to do basic surfing, emails and multimedia, then the Symbian platform is the best choice (no doubt!).
    But these days its about the new-gen processors and what we can do with them. We have gyroscopes, barometers, microphones, G-sensors, GPS-chips, proximity sensors and touchscreens within a small candybar … there are endless possibilities of ways to interact with them (eg the iOS App that tracks your body movement to deterimine the best time to wake you up).

    Apple has innovated the field because it was the only one that could utilise these seperate devices into singular uses … aka Apps!
    Without that innovation Apple would definitely not be a dominator in the field.
    Apple even went further and designed beautiful hardware and an easy-peasy user experience to marry this innovation, which is why they have (arguably) been making the best smartphones in the last ~2years.

    Apps is not the correct term, “the things you can do with the device” plays a major role in smartphones and consequently in smartphone/mobile OSs!

    Hardware, User Interface, Basic Functionality (email, browser etc) also play major roles.
    But there are other factors like Cost, Availability(stocks/scale of sales), Availability(carrier), Mindshare (ads/reputation) that are also involved.
    The fine print is stuff like 4G, voice cancellation and retina displays which play minor roles (but usually advertised like an apocalypse).

    • December 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm

      Anyone else just laugh reading most of what Kangal here posted? No offense, but you mention hardware and then the applications to use them? While hardware *needs* software to utilize it, Nokia has been pushing that innovation for years before Apple even entered the game.

      Apple didn’t innovate by making the applications, developers did. Apple didn’t innovate by adding hardware to mobile devices, Nokia did most of them, but not all. Only thing Apple did was make the device popular in the United States, and once that’s done it slowly creeps into the rest of the world, no matter how bad it is for consumers long term.

      You are arguing that just because the iPhone is a pleasure to use, that it is innovative on all fronts, like a lot of people, and that is just plain wrong. Being great in one area does not equate to being great in all areas.

  1. December 14, 2010 at 7:44 am

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