The mobile space is hot, so what is wrong with Nokia and RIM?

The mobile space is hot, so what is wrong with Nokia and RIM?

Summary: Apple continues to set profit records and Google is activating over 900,000 Android devices daily so why are we having to talk about the possible end of Nokia and RIM?


I just don't get it. Apple is setting records for profits with the iPhone, Google is activating over 900,000 Android devices daily, Samsung is getting ready to launch the Galaxy S III across all major U.S. wireless carriers with record pre-sales already in the books, yet Nokia and RIM are on a downward trend with massive employee layoffs and falling market share. I seem to always support the underdog, I don't know if it is my sympathetic nature or if I just look beyond the obvious and find the technology compelling, but as a HUGE fan of the HTC One X with ICS and Sense 4 I am thinking it might be time to just stick with Android as my primary smartphone platform and give up on others. I follow the mobile space and am a major smartphone fanatics, but I am not a mobile company representative and don't have the answers myself. It seems to me there are smart folks at all these companies and you would think they would know how to stay successful when the market is so hot.


I have been a major Nokia fan since 2006 and really enjoy using the Lumia 900. I personally was excited when I heard that Nokia was going to launch future smartphones running Windows Phone because I like using the WP platform. I also enjoyed using Symbian and MeeGo and think that further MeeGo development could have led to some very compellig products (PureView MeeGo device would have been much better than a Symbian PureView device). Nokia gave up on Symbian and MeeGo too early in my opinion and now are struggling to stay afloat with WP as the primary platform. Tomi Ahonen has a detailed analysis of the impact of CEO Stephen Elop's decisions and it is quite disheartening. Microsoft hasn't appeared to care much about promoting Windows Phone and neither have other manufacturers so right now it seems to me that Nokia is out there leading the WP charge, but the crowd isn't really listening.

Nokia makes great hardware and the Lumia 800 and 900 are even rather unique in the Windows Phone space. There are a lot of junk Android devices, yet people still continue to buy them and Android is dominating the smartphone market. While I think Nokia has made better devices in the past, it really doesn't seem that hardware is the issue for Nokia.

Prior to the Windows Phone announcement, Nokia's market share was falling. This may have been due more to iOS and Android adoption though, rather than a vote of no confidence in Symbian. The latest version of Symbian, Belle, is actually a fairly powerful mobile operating system that functions much like Android. With continued development and promotion by Nokia, I think Nokia with Symbian and MeeGo would be more successful today than they are now with Windows Phone.

I am curious to hear what you think Nokia could have done to turn around the ship and succeed in the mobile space. Will they indeed end up being a Microsoft company? Is their future in question?


I've never personally been a heavy BlackBerry user, primarily because the small company I work for uses Exchange and will not roll out a BES for just a couple of folks so the experience was never as good for me. I enjoyed using physical keyboards in the past and RIM made some of the best, but the touchscreen ones have gotten so good now that I don't find a physical keyboard a necessity any longer. RIM dominated the corporate market and a few years ago really started reaching consumers with easy, turnkey solutions. However, they too are struggling to find their way in the current mobile space with recently announced layoffs and many changes in leadership.

Some are predicting RIM won't make it to BlackBerry 10 and from the little we have seen of it, BB 10 looks similar to Android in operation and functionality. I think large companies and government organizations will continue to purchase BlackBerry devices, primarily for security and control reasons, but as more and more people are bringing iOS and Android devices into the workplace this may not be a long term strategy that leads to success.

What can RIM do to stay competitive in the mobile space?

HTC was on top of the world for a couple of years with record profits and is seeing a major drop in profits lately. However, with their refocusing efforts and full support for Android I think they will continue to succeed along with Samsung and am not worried about their financial situation at the moment.

As smartphone permeate throughout all of our lives and start to become the standard purchase for mobile phone owners, what can Nokia and RIM do to turn around the downward trends? Is the writing on the wall for one or both? It is an exciting time to be in the mobile space, but also a sad time as long time leaders fall. Palm was first, but I fear they will not be the last.

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  • Is Your Lumia Suddenly Any Worse?

    Mine still operates just as nicely as it did yesterday, before the layoffs. Why would you give up on it? More than anything, this proves that Elop was right that Symbian is a burning platform.

    I know that there's been many "just wait until" responses before. However, there's probably not been anything like the upcoming Windows 8 launch. Today, WP is a curiosity to most. Soon, it'll be the "oh, it works like my computer" phone, which will not create automatic purchases, but certainly make it something familiar as opposed to something "out there."
    • I'll keep it, but something needs to happen soon

      I will keep my Lumia 900, but sure wish Microsoft would give Nokia some help and promote the platform more. There is hesitation right now with doubt about support for existing devices with WP8 and we really have seen very little from Microsoft in regards to WP8. We hear it will be a major improvement, but we haven't seen anything yet that shows that. I know there are events coming soon and look forward to hearing more.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • Right On

        I'm with you on that, Matt. Also, I wouldn't have minded for Nokia to come up with another device or two, even pre-WP8. In particular, I'd really like to see them bring out a strong Bb-like phone with a physical keyboard. That Operation Rolling Thunder isn't thundering very loudly just now, and WP8 is still quite a ways off. But yes, Microsoft could really do a little more here.
      • They're not?

        My understanding is that the Lumia is the 2nd best selling phone out there, and for a while, was the very best selling phone out there. And yes, I am comparing to the iPhone 4S.

        The problem is, that statistic is only US sales, and even being a top dog in the US does not matter much in a worldwide race.

        Right now, there are only two profitable smartphone companies, Apple with >80% and Samsung with the scraps. No one else can compete. It is not just Nokia and RIM, but HTC, Motorola, Sony, LG...everyone.

        It isn't the platform, it's the supply chain.
        x I'm tc
      • The mistake MS is making is thinking that their hw and carrier partners

        have any interest in shouldering any of the marketing burden. Now that iphone isn't exclusive to att anymore you hardly ever see any non apple advertising for it. Carriers just don't care, they only advertise the newest device they get and for att that isn't the 900 anymore. Oems are doing the same thing. There is no thunder from nokia, they are internally focused right now. There's not even a rolling rumble. The myriad of problems with the 900 really should have been worked out with the 800. Most of them are still unresolved even after two updates. Nokias stuck right now because they really need to come out with a couple more models for the US now and then a couple more for the fall but they cant really do anything until WP8 ships. So they focus on their W8 tablet and do nothing to market WP8/900. Much as Im disappointed by the 900 and their complete lack of marketing of it after the first 2 weeks, I am looking forward to seeing their first pureview WP8 device. With the lame offering apple just did on ios6 being a complete dud/fizzle and android jb not fixing any of the horrible security and ui architecture that make it unusable battery life wise and a complete malware magnet neither of those even beats WP7 so WP8 will clearly lead the mobile os pack by a wide and getting wider margin. MS just needs to finish the fb integration, the Skype/Lync integration, get voice prompting turn by turn in the box for all oems, let isvs get to the parts of the systems that enable competing apps, etc. June 20th should be interesting.
        Johnny Vegas
      • So...

        If you like the phone, why do you care whether it is promoted or not??? Sounds like you are doing the 'look at me I own a popular phone'.

        If you bought the device and are happy with it, then I don't see the problem or the point of this blog...
      • WP Physical Keyboard ?

        Does Windows Phone have support for a Physical Keyboard. Maybe something like the Nokia E7/E6 with Windows Phone on it would grab some market share for people who prefer Physical Keyboard (i.e. many long time Nokia customers as well as some Blackberry Customers). Could Nokia even do that with Windows Phone or would they have to write the themselves if MS doesn't support Physical keyboard in Windows Phone ?
      • You'll keep it ... but honestly, compared to the HTC One X?

        Do you really put the Lumia 900 in the same category as the One X? or the SGIII?

        Nokisoft needs to do something (and dramatically soon) to get into the game, at that level. Having just mid-range phones doesn't generate the excitement (and profits) ... a full line is needed.
      • Continuing the physical keyboard discussion for WP7....

        I bought a cheap bluetooth keyboard to use with my WP7 only to find that there were no bluetooth keyboard implementations for WP7. That was most frustraiting.
    • Why would you look for something else, when you are told their is no future

      When Elop announced Symbian will be junked, I kept my Symbian Nokia.
      Then there was the beautiful N9, with MeeGo. However tempting it looked, I had already decided to look elsewhere. If Nokia would not support Symbian and MeeGo, why invest any more? I kept my Nokia phone until it started breaking (the plastic, you know). Then I looked around, evaluated the state of the mobile platforms, trends and brought myself an iPhone 4S.
      I don't believe Nokia can sustain Windows Phone, if they could not sustain Symbian. That simple.

      It takes a lot of time to build trust and very short time to lose it.
    • "oh, it works like my computer"

      Trouble is it doesn't, unless you part with the cash and re-hardware your desktop/laptop environment after the fall.

      Symbian was a platform on fire, but MeeGo would have been a key differentiator instead of tying up to the titanic of WP. Nokia have shown with Sybian and the Series XX phones, you don't need IOS/Android to succeed.

      As MeeGo was also a Joint Venture with Intel, desperate to get into the mobile marketplace, Intel would have happily funded an open ended Marketing Budget that shames the pathetic efforts of Microsoft to date on WP7.
    • becaue the app really old and nothing cool like itune

      becaue the app really old and nothing cool like itune
      Rian Bejo
  • pretty simple reasoning chain

    1. America defines the mobile space.
    2. American wireless networks are locked. You can't move a phone from one network to another easily.
    3. Phone manufacuturers then have to make what the wireless networks say they have to make.
    4. Successful phone manufacturers have to have both VZW and ATT *fully* onboard with their offerings.
    5. Since neither Nokia nor RIM make what the networks say, and neither have devices on the majority of national networks, they are not making any inroads.

    Until Nokia gets VZW onboard, and until RIM plays by the networks rules, neither will show any improvement.
    • One of Many Reasons

      I think a major reason beyond that one is simply that your friends have iPhones and some other stuff that all doesn't look like Windows Phone. So if you can't get an iPhone, you buy what at least looks familiar to those who don't have an iPhone. Do you really want to be the first one of your friends who has a different phone that may not have the app they say is cool?
    • iOS + Android = 800,000,000 devices

      Total US population 2010, cradle to grave: 308,000,000.

      The US is not so important as you think.
      • Um, do the math

        If the US is 3/8 of the entire world market, then it is as important as he thinks. Name any other country that has that kind of market share on the global scale. Go ahead. *taps foot* I'm waiting.
    • Wrong - US centric delusion.

      American companies define the mobile OS space, not the hardware. The ARM processor at the heart of all this is British too.

      American is a side show with dead end CDMA. GSM is the global mobile technology solution.

      In Europe, easy to unlock your phone and hop to another Cell supplier, at thye end of your original contract, and Cell Tarriff's are also not eye-wateringly a rip off as are in the US too.
      • That trend is changing with low cost carriers in the U.S.

        But I agree with what you say.

        U.S. carriers charge (what I think) is a lot for a subsidized phone to be under a long contract. I've seen cell companies in Europe offering Galaxy S III for free for a 2 year contract (U.S. contracts are also a long all or nothing 2 years).

        My contract is up with Sprint next October. I'm going to purchase a Nexus Whatever-the-new-one-is-then from Google Play and go to a $35/month 300 minute, unlimited txt and data plan.

        Why give the carrier $200 for a phone, get locked in for 2 years, get data caps (depending on the carrier) when I can pay Google $399 for a brand new unlocked phone and next to nothing for unlimited everything?

        But isn't that Matt's question? RIM and Nokia don't offer phones considered "affordable" WITH a top notch OS (in other words, not a feature phone). Say what you will about "cheap Android phones". But an activation is an activation and part of the reason why Android is proliferating.
  • The mobile space is hot, so what is wrong with Nokia and RIM?

    This is pretty easy. Nokia makes some fine handsets they just need to be on more carriers and get the level of support that the carriers give to Apple or android. RIM needs new management and a look to the future of mobile devices. RIM could go away for all I care but I'd like to see Nokia stick around.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Won't help Nokia

      In Europe, Nokia has always had strong positions. The primary reason being that Nokia is one of the mayor vendors of GSM equipment (for the phones, the base stations that make the networks).

      Still, their Windows Phone handsets sit on shelves everywhere. You can also find lots of whatever Android phones and those sell, usually because they come dirt cheap (like $5 and it's yours, with camera etc. and at most $15/month contract).
      Yet, iPhones are hard to find. Most of the time they are "out of stock", because any quantity Apple is able to supply is sold out. Despite the fact, that iPhones are usually sold at list prices outside the US.

      So, Nokia and Windows Phone have some other problem.