Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

Summary: Nokia's champion of the MeeGo operating system is out the door as the company wrestles with its current operating system---Symbian---and weighs a future one. Given Android's momentum, Nokia may have to go Android sooner than later.

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Nokia's champion of the MeeGo operating system is out the door as the company wrestles with its current operating system---Symbian---and weighs a future one. Given Android's momentum, Nokia may have to go Android sooner than later.

To wit:

  • About a third of all new smartphone sales in the last six months went to Android devices, according to Nielsen.
  • Nokia's Symbian operating system is a market share leader, but losing momentum.
  • New Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has a clean slate and an empty exec suite as Ari Jaaksi, the vice president in charge of Nokia's MeeGo devices, has left the company. Jaaksi joins a long list of departing Nokia executives.

What should Nokia do?

Last week, I argued that Nokia should offer a mobile OS smorgasbord. Perhaps, you do OS choice in phases. Nokia could add Android today and Windows Phone 7 later. In any case, Nokia needs a solid horse to run with. Waiting for MeeGo---or some other unknown quantity---may not be the best strategy.

A lot of the reaction last week revolved around how Nokia should either focus or prep for MeeGo. Do today's developments change the equation for Nokia?

Topics: Nokia, Operating Systems, Software

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19 comments
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  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    You are crazy! Nokia can and should avoid Android like the plague. They can produce good phones with their own operating systems. We do not need more purveyors of Google spyware.
    jorjitop
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    This "Nokia should go Android" argument is turning out to be stale. Please stop it. WP7 is as unknown as MeeGo. Why on earth would Nokia bet on it?
    jaytalwar
  • A different, better suggestion for RIM and Nokia.

    Why not simply add the API to access all the Google Android apps out there? RIM has the enterprise, add the apps. Nokia can do the same. Android is open source, Google would probably actively support them since they want the apps and cloud. Android is simply one way to achieve that. Heck, Windows 7 might take off if they did the same.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • Can Apple avoid making Windows PC much longer

    Seems to me that's the same argument put forward in 2000, as to whether Apple could continue avoiding Windows much longer.

    Answer yes it can, it just needs to make something better. You may not like Nokia (and I'm no fan of their software patent trolling), but they do sell more feature phones than others sell Android smartphones sold. They need to upgrade.

    They need to spend on their software, they need to develop their own key apps, just as Google does, they need to think like a winner, because Google is not impossible to beat, it often flops quite badly.
    guihombre
  • No they should not

    Competition is good and the smartphone does not need an equivalent of Windows there.
    Nokia just need to focus on Meego and push Symbian down for mid and low end smartphones ASAP.
    In fact Nokia should have skipped the transformation of Symbian to Open Source (an almost useless and very costly move), skip the use of Symbian for its Touch based smartphones (at least until Symbian^3 or even Symbian^4) and focused directly on Maemo.
    If they had done this they would have already released powerful and appealing solutions able to efficiently compete against iPhone and Android phones.
    Fortunately, it is not too late.
    timiteh
  • Silly argument is silly.

    Do you really think Nokia - who are still utterly dominant in the global smartphone market - are going to become vassals of Google particularly if that involves using an OS that is so weak its best selling handsets have to use a third party UI?

    Please. You have no idea what you're talking about. Just stop it.
    Sleeper Service
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    I agree with the article completely - they cannot and should not avoid android! Something similar here http://www.writeaprogram.net/?p=417
    sachinag
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    Please NOOOOO! I think it's great that the android os has taken off sooo well. I have never liked the windows phone os's (maybe the new one will be better) and I don't like apple or their products on priciple, and if iOS, Mobile Windows, and Android were the only options, I would probably pick Android. But, I don't want those to be the only choices. I like Nokia and their OS. Instead of them abandoning it and adding Android, I would rather see them invest heavily in their own os which I think is already pretty good and make it even better.

    Now, if they could pull off a phone that the user could choose their OS, that in my opinion would be a HUGE win for them. It would set them apart. Let the user chose what OS they want separate from the hardware they want. I know that I already don't like the way mobile works. You want that phone, but it isn't offered on the carrier you want (not talking about the iPhone, AT&T or verizon because I like AT&T and I dont' like Verizon or Apple), and the phone that is on the carrier you want isn't your first choice and to make it worse it's using an OS you don't want. You know what, lets make it simple. One phone that is available on any carrier and you get to pick one of these 3 os's to run on it. HOW GREAT WOULD THAT BE? All of a sudden people could pick the phone they want. We wouldn't have to settle for a close substitute. We wouldn't have 3 or 4 different galaxly S models based on the carrier. I could chose between technologies (CDMA or GMS). Not sure it can be done, but how great would it be to have a phone that could work with either technology? Or how about a phone that could be dual booted? Not sure why you would want to do that? But let people worry about the why's, just give them the options!

    BTW, welcome back Nokia! The N8 looks to be an awesome phone. Can't wait to put my hands on it. It's been almost 2 years since I've owned and used a Nokia and I can't wait to return.
    mgrubb@...
    • Choose your OS

      @mgrubb@... Now, if they could pull off a phone that the user could choose their OS, that in my opinion would be a HUGE win for them.

      *exactly!* That's what I'd like for a tablet. At this point, I don't want the Android some vendors are pushing. QNX sounds interesting, but I don't like the device. Would it not be ideal to make tablets as flexible as the PC on my desk where I can choose what OS to put on it? Windows or Linux or OSX all can run there - I've done it. Why not my tablet or phone?
      Olderdan
    • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

      @mgrubb@... "I could chose between technologies (CDMA or GMS). Not sure it can be done, but how great would it be to have a phone that could work with either technology? Or how about a phone that could be dual booted? "

      Check out the N900 it has then above features and more, I currently dual boot froyo and Maemo.
      mart5.1
  • Windows 7 NOT REMOTELY A CONFIRMED SOLID HORSE

    "Perhaps, you do OS choice in phases. Nokia could add Android today and Windows Phone 7 later. In any case, Nokia needs a solid horse to run with."
    Not sure if you are crazy, but I don't see how you can call Windows 7 a "Solid Horse". Windows 7 is NOT EVEN REMOTELY confirmed as a "Solid Horse" so saying that they should head in that direction cannot be supported.
    I agree that Android is a "Solid Horse". Can't say that Symbian S^3 or Meego is not (but can't really say it is either).
    In my opinion Nokia would be better off committing to making the N8 and the upcoming E7 be able to run EITHER Symbian S^3/S^4 OR Meego. This would then allow them and their users to have a transition set of phones that would allow them to put chose the better of the two OSes until the viability of either OS has been proven.
    Oh, and one more thought. Nice 1990s Nokia phones you are showing as a Graphic for this article. Nothing like making everyone think of Nokia's oldest phones when you are bashing the company!
    jkohut
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    Nokia's top notch hardware with an non-crippled Android OS is a winning horse. I would have bought such a device rather than the Droid I got, but with Symbian or an Android wannabe Meego there's no chance I buy Nokia again.
    drorharari
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    I would have liked to have seen a few pie charts here on global market share for phone sales (all cell phones: i.e. all smartphones, feature phones and plain jane cellular phones) , another for just global market share of feature phone sales and another for global market share of smartphone sales. Symbian has quietly dominated in certain markets and the western collective consciousness seems to be oblivious of its existence. I personally don't care for it. My exposure to it was around 2005 with that small portrait style screen and the 5-way joy-stick-like control that you pushed down as an Enter button. Not really sure what they have done with it lately.

    The whole idea of many mobile OS's is troubling to me. How many desktop OS's has the world been able to wrap it's head around? Globally, really its only 1 - Windows (I own a Mac and a PC). Businesses and corporations take the easiest and most dependable route to deployment. That's why RIM remains strong in that space: managed deployment, device control and maintenance.

    I wish Nokia all the best as they make solid hardware. It's a tough call...
    griffariff
  • I loooove my Nokia 2700c celly

    I really haven't gotten into the smartphone thingy because I'm a laptop dude who's more productive in said setting. I just want a phone where I can browse in Opera Mini while I'm in bed here in East Africa and keep up with my pals 8 hours away in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. If I can't sleep, I simply surf the Net and keep up to date on the latest tech stuff, etc.
    Maybe I'll look at the smartphone market a little differently when I return to the first world with fast 3G/4G mobile Internet speeds.

    - Max "The IT Pro"
    http://MaxTheITpro.com
    maxtheitpro
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    Nokia has to do something. On the surface, it sounds great: they sold 111 million mobile devices last quarter. But their profits were down 40%, in a world in which most smart phone vendors are riding a new wave in smart phones. Apple made more profit than Nokia (and LG and Samsung... combined), even selling far fewer phones. In the first half of 2010, even with Android outselling iPhone for the first time, Apple pulled in 39% of the industry's profits.

    You can't compete, forever, with a company that's basically eating your lunch, quarter after quarter. Sure, Apple's profits are primarily in the USA, and Nokia does well here, but has virtually zero presence in the Smartphone market. One reason Apple makes so much -- they only sell full featured Smartphones. They're making a 50% gross marging on iPhone hardware, while Nokia's making pennies.

    I don't think they can pull it off with SymbianOS, and so far, they've done nothing interesting with MeeGo. Maybe they'll do better with MeeGo than with SymbianOS, but really, they're not making enough money on Smartphones to match Apple or Google's level of development on any of these OSs. And despite Intel's involvement, they still look pretty alone there with MeeGo. Nokia may even be part of the problem -- they are still mighty, which other cell phone vendor wants to go head-to-head with them. Same reason open sourcing SymbianOS didn't help... the few other companies (Sony Ericsson and a few companies OEMing for NTT, it seems) are all largely jumping into Android.

    As Android and iOS spread into Nokia's strongholds, they'll have to offer SOME competition. They've lost 10% market share on smart phones in just the last year -- that can't go on indefinitely.

    SymbianOS isn't doing that. Part of it is the simple fact that many users don't even know their SymbianOS phone is a smart phone. They use it as a feature phone, but most of the SymbianOS phones don't even come with the Ovi store installed... the N97 was the first.

    The Ovi store is a distant third in terms of available apps, behind iTunes and Android Market, even given the obviously huge number of compatible devices in the world. And they're late to the party... the Ovi store only opened last year, apparently following the path established by iTunes and Android. So there are plenty of users who are dropping SymbianOS for something else, and it's not even necessarily due to a weakness in the OS, but Nokia's lack of imagination over what a Smartphone should be.

    So it's an open question if Nokia is really going to be competitive. You can't look at their 40% share and claim they are -- they built their share in the days of Windows Phone, Blackberry, and PalmOS. They had 50% of the market last year, and yeah, it's a growing market, but you don't lose 10% share without doing something wrong. They have to do something, soon, or they well be overtaken in share. They're already losing in profits.
    Hazydave
  • The other problems...

    Despite their open source SymbianOS and MeeGo, both are seen as Nokia proprietary right now. Intel plans to use MeeGo, but only in x86 devices, and of course, Intel isn't a retailer -- they want MeeGo mainly because they need a tablet alternative to Windows. If Android or something else gets traction, it's all the same to Intel. They used to back the BeOS too, but didn't get too upset when it failed.

    Right now, you have all-proprietary Apple, all-proprietary RIM, all-proprietary Palm/HP, all-open Android, and the usual proprietary but OEMable Window 7 Phone (due on Monday, but apparently with some developer support). Do developers really want something that's the flip of Windows... essentially single vendor but open source? Does that really get you anywhere? And one that's seen as a shrinking platform (SymbianOS) or all but non-existant (MeeGo)? How does Nokia attract developers; why spend their time on either when they could be coding for iOS or Android?
    Hazydave
  • It's not just the OS, either

    Nokia is behind on hardware, and for no good reason. I mean, they're big enough to keep pace with HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Apple, etc. But let's look at some of their "not quite out yet" phones.

    One is the Nokia E7. This will have MSRP at 499 Euros, about the same you'd pay for a leading edge unbundled phone in the USA ($694). This is the "Droid" configuration... all-screen, fairly modern looking, with a slide out keyboard in landscape mode.

    But the specs... screen at 640x360. That would have been great in 2008, but the standard in 2009 went to 800x480 or better. ARM 11 CPU? Sure, it's at 680MHz.. but this year's top phones are all the faster Cortex A8, at 1GHz. In fact, last year all the top models went to Cortex A8... we're a few months away from the A9 becoming common. And they're all at 1GHz today.

    256MB RAM? Most new models have had 512MB or more for awhile now. No memory card slot? Apple and Palm get away with this, but it's pretty rare. They're limited to 16GB forever... my year-old Droid has 32GB, thanks to card upgradability. And I can still grab a spare 16GB card for extra media, shooting video, etc.

    8Mpixel camera's not bad... but fixed focus? All of the leading phones supported focusing last year -- this makes the camera a useful tool for barcode scans, business card scans, as well as the usual close-up photos.

    The one innovation: this supports five GSM 3G bands.. you could actually use this on either AT&T or T-Mobile in the USA... if only anyone bought Nokia phones unbundled in the USA.

    In short, you don't expand your market selling 2008 vintage technology when it's nearly 2011. And that has nothing to do with the OS.
    Hazydave
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    I wish Nokia and others would come out with a high performance cell phone. Give it a LCD easily read in sunlight, nicely backlit buttons, and most of all have it perform as well as the old 3 watt analog phones did in fringe areas. Cut out all the useless bell and whistles, and give me a damn good phone!!!
    hunter003@...
  • RE: Nokia: Can it afford to avoid Android much longer?

    Anderoid, its rubbish, let it go Windows Phone 7.
    Ziyan-Junaideen