updated 07:20 pm EST, Tue December 11, 2007
Nokia taking on Apple
Nokia, though far from losing its dominant grip on the mobile handset market, is already engaged in a battle to retain mindshare and keep one step ahead of two relative newcomers to its turf: Apple and Google. In a New York Times interview, Nokia's chief executive, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, says his company has an "army of software developers," writing applications for the "next generation of mobile telephone services." Though the company has 39 percent of the global cell phone market, it has faltered in the United States (where it holds only about 10 percent of the market), leaving the door open for Apple and Google. "Apple has managed to get operators to pay a bounty for new customers signed up — that is a sea change," said John Tysoe, an analyst with the Mobile World, a research firm in London. Meanwhile, Google plans to create device-non-specific software based on its open-source Android platform.
Nokia apparently sees Apple as the first credible entrant into its market in years, but will wait for more details before deciding whether Google is a threat or an opportunity. Google did not invite Nokia its Open Handset Alliance, which includes Motorola, Samsung and HTC.
Mr. Kallasvuo spends a large portion of his time talking to wireless carriers, which means he hears a lot about the iPhone. "The user interface was what one would expect from Apple," said Kai Oistamo, the executive vice president for mobile phones. The New York Times reports that thought Apple has shipped 1.4 million iPhones since June, less than half as many shipped than Nokia’s high-end phone, the N9, Mr. Oistamo says there is more to the market than mere numbers "If you don't strive to be cool, to be on the edge,” he said, "you run the risk of becoming irrelevant."
To that end, Nokia is seeking to add multimedia depth to its phones. The company recently bought Navteq for $8.1 billion, planing to use the company's maps for location-based services -- finding a shop or restaurant, etc. "Mobile phones have two qualities that PC’s don’t have," Mr. Kallasvuo said. "They’re always with you, and they tell other people where you are."