Nokia’s Lost Opportunities

nokia.gifI came across two things today that reminded me that Nokia lost many opportunities to be successful. The first is an article at digittoday that shows that Nokia had a production ready tablet ready as far back as 2001. The second is a twitter post by VisionMobile’s Andreas Constantinou that shows 15 years of mobile platform history in one chart. However, the chart doesn’t show Nokia’s early (November 2007) ‘Download’ app store that I identified at the time as a lost opportunity. VisionMobile’s chart is slightly misleading in that while the iPhone did appear in 2007, the App Store appeared later in July, 2008.

What can we learn from these Nokia mistakes? While, with hindsight, Nokia’s tablet and early app store might have been technically flawed in some ways, the fundamental ideas were sound. If you have something you are about to abandon, maybe you should think long and hard. Sometimes it is too easy to give up. Can you somehow make your idea more acceptable to users? Might some near-future improvements in related technologies make the idea more acceptable to users?

Canalys Q2 2011

newcanalys.gifCanalys released their worldwide smartphone statistics for Q2 2011 yesterday. An amazing 107.7 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2011. Only a few years ago I was saying the smartphone market was small compared to the market for all phones. Today, smartphones are ubiquitous and mobile development is no longer experimental but mainstream.

Here’s a graph I have created from the numbers…

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Canalys omitted the Symbian percentage from their press release but we know it’s between 12% and 19% as they said Symbian is now in third place. I have been kind and given Symbian 18%.

Canalys said "demand for its Symbian-based smart phones has dissipated very rapidly" and "Fewer than 1.5 million Microsoft-based smart phones shipped during the quarter, equating to a mere 1% share of the global market, down 52% against shipments a year ago". These figures don’t bode well for Nokia’s forthcoming Windows Phone devices.

Android is now shipping over twice as many phones as iOS and had the strongest growth in Q2 2011. However, I think the end game will be more interesting. 

Gartner’s Q210 Numbers

gartner136.gifGartner have just released their latest statistics on Q210 Worldwide Mobile Device Sales. The figures for smartphone platform share are roughly the same as those reported by Canalys last week.

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Gartner says…

"Nokia’s senior executives need to do more to attract developers and other ecosystem members by revising its platform strategy and improving its communications."

"Apple’s sales would have been higher if it had not had to face tight inventory management in preparation for the arrival of the iPhone 4 at the end of the second quarter of 2010. Apple also suffered from some supply constraint on the new device."

"We believe the Torch’s form factor will still appeal more to business users than to consumers and will stop many loyal BlackBerry users defecting to other platforms, but it won’t attract many new users to the brand."

For Android…

"A non-exclusive strategy that produces products selling across many communication service providers (CSPs), and  the backing of so many device manufacturers, which are bringing more attractive devices to market at several different price points, were among the factors that yielded its growth this quarter"

Vision Mobile’s Mobile Developer Economics 2010

visionmobile.gifIf you haven’t done so already, I’d take a look at Vision Mobile’s Mobile Developer Economics 2010 sponsored by Telefonica.

One thing I should say is that the term ‘developers’ is a bit misleading in all of this. Mobile developers are driven (employed by) by handset OEMs, carriers, companies, brands, marketing agencies etc. so the economic insights of the Visionmobile survey speak as much for the industry as a whole as they do for individual developer impressions.

On my first quick read through I started to connect a few things together. On the addressable Market and monetisation, the research showed…

"Developers care more about addressable market and monetisation potential than any single technical aspect of a platform."

yet…

"… felt that the best aspect of their platform was the large market penetration, even if the actual market penetration was relatively small."

Leading on from this, there’s a disparity between the device installed base and the number of available apps for each platform. The apps that have greatest installed base have the fewest applications and vice versa. Developers have flocked onto the new platforms resulting in huge competition and low revenues…

"The dubious long-tail economics are reinforced by our findings on developer revenue expectations. Only five percent of the respondents reported very good revenues, above their expectations"

Now, developers say the…

"key challenge reported by mobile developers is the lack of effective marketing channels to increase application exposure and discovery"

My thought is that while more success might come through better marketing and exposure, this can’t happen for all (or even a large number of) developers. There’s a limited number of consumers on each platform that have a finite amount of time (and sometimes money) looking for apps.

I question what will happen with the even newer platforms: MeeGo, Symbian^4, Windows Phone 7 and Bada. Will developers stay away because they have been burnt (financially) by iPhone and Android or will they move to them because of the poor long tail revenue opportunities on iPhone and Android? Is there a finite audience for mobile apps (or at least people who want to spend money on them) and has this already been served (and targeted) by the iPhone?

Gartner 2009 Statistics

gartner136.gifGarner have just released their phone sales statistics for 2009.

It’s interesting to see that Symbian has regained growth having previously seen a decline in sales between 2007 and 2008 (compare with 2008 stats). iPhone and BlackBerry continue to see strong growth. Android is seen for the first time as a significant platform rather than being grouped up in ‘Other OSs’.

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The total of all platforms has seen large growth, despite a 0.9% decline in total phone sales in 2009. Smartphones represented 14.2% of the phones sold in 2009. In the coming years, with a greater proportion of phones sold becoming smartphones, there’s still a very large proportion of the market available for the taking by any (or all) platforms. It will be interesting to see these figures next year when Samsung’s Bada will convert many of its, what would have been, dumb phones to Smartphones.

Nokia N900 PUSH

nokiapush.gifNokia PUSH is a new Nokia initiative…

"to give designers, hackers, modders, creatives and artists the chance to get their hands on, and heads inside, the new Nokia N900 & the Maemo platform"

The brief is…

"tell us how you would hack and mod the N900 & Maemo to connect the N900 to something you love"

While it’s not that clear yet what Nokia mean by ‘connect’, the examples on the web site suggest this means connect physically, not Internet connection, although I suppose that could be used in addition to hardwiring an N900 to something.

I find this competition interesting because connection with everyday items isn’t usually considered. As long ago as January 2006 I mentioned a Sprint survey where respondants said they wanted to add practical things to their phone that would interact with their immediate environment (e.g. faxing, temperature, printing, money) rather than traditional converged consumer electronics functionality.

You need to send a proposal by October 5th. Winners will be announced on October 25th and receive N900 devices, funding and support. The solutions will be shown in Nokia flagship stores in Helsinki, London, Tokyo and New York in February/March 2010.

Maemo Harmattan

maemo.gifI have been reading the rumours about Nokia’s Maemo Harmattan. Assuming this for real…

"Maemo was indeed headed for at least one Nokia phone. In fact, they say the eventual plan is to use Maemo to phase out S60 all together"

I have been a fan of Nokia Tablets ever since I purchased the 770. I always thought having a phone in the device was the missing element. Without it, it’s just a gadget for Geeks. With a phone inside, it could become something to challenge the iPhone and even S60.

While this news is welcomed, I do worry that this will be yet another phone OS. I suspect Nokia’s plan is to try and make Qt the main S60 development environment. There are clues in Symbian Foundation’s plan to make Qt’s Orbit UI a replacement for the current Symbian Avkon windows controls. Once this is done, in the very longer term, it might be easier to move developers over to Qt on Maemo.

All this sounds good in theory but my thought is that having Qt as a layer of abstraction over S60 and Maemo might not give developers enough control. Other frameworks/runtimes have shown that there will always be a substantial number of things that will necessitate coding directly on the platform. Then again, maybe Qt might be the first technology to break this trend.

Gartner 2008 Smartphone Statistics

gartner136.gifGartner has just released their smartphone sales statistics for 2008. The world smartphone market continued to grow, despite economic problems. Of all the data, developers will be most interested in the sales listed by operating system…

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Regionally, in North America growth was driven by operators aggressively pushing data plans. In Asia/Pacific, touch-based devices continued to attract buyers. In Europe, Samsung was the main contributor to the growth due to the success of its Omnia touchscreen smartphone.

It will be interesting to compare these numbers next year when more Android phones, the new Palm Pre phone, a possible a new iPhone and a few more Nokia touchscreen phones have entered the market. I don’t think there has ever been a time when it’s possible for such large changes in OS market share.