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Nokia aims 'affordability' at enterprise competition

Company's slew of enterprise-friendly low-end and midmarket smartphones underscores its bets on the small and midsize segment in the Asia-Pacific region.

SINGAPORE--With its new lineup of low-end and midmarket Qwerty devices, Nokia seeks to beat the competition with "affordability".

Speaking to ZDNet Asia at a Tuesday briefing on the company's release of its C3, C6 and E5 phones, Sirpa Ikola, senior marketing manager, achieve category for Nokia Southeast Asia and Pacific, said there is strong demand for enterprise connectivity on the go, particularly for applications such as push mail and mobile instant messaging.

And Nokia, which dominates the basic feature phone segment, wants to use its scale in volume manufacturing to best the likes of Research in Motion (RIM) and Apple, both of which have made plays for the enterprise user.

"Not a lot of the competition can offer fully-capable devices at many price points," said Ikola.

She added that the company's recent tie-up with Microsoft, putting the Redmond company's Exchange mail and instant messaging on Nokia phones, also allows users to plug into the enterprise for free.

This provides additional savings, she said, noting that for a similar setup, some of Nokia's competitors charge a licensing fee for middleware and backend hardware. RIM, for instance, sells backend servers to enterprises using BlackBerrys, and charges a per-user fee for the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) middleware.

With the majority of Asia's businesses made up of SMBs (small and midsize businesses), Nokia hopes the price-sensitive segment will take to its devices, said Ikola.

Noting the trend in Qwerty device popularity, she said Nokia shipped 18 million of its enterprise-focused E-series devices last year. The company has a 60 percent share of the Qwerty market outside of the United States.

Nokia is the world's number one phone maker including smartphones, but has been slipping in the latter segment. Last year, the company reported its smartphone share fell to 35 percent in the third quarter, from 41 percent in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, Apple has climbed to the third spot in the global smartphone race, selling 24 million iPhones last year to account for 14.4 percent of the market. In second place was RIM, with 19.9 percent.

Overall, Nokia had a 36.4 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market in 2009. A Gartner analyst noted in a previous report that Nokia's smartphone Symbian OS had become "uncompetitive" in recent years, but could still ride Nokia's dominant market share to return to growth.