Nokia: We have a fight on our hands

The handset maker has acknowledged it is now the 'challenger' to the likes of Android and the iPhone, and has vowed to return to the number one position in high-end mobile devices

Nokia is now a "challenger" in the smartphone market, the company's new executive vice president of mobile solutions said on Friday, as he promised to return Nokia to the top position in high-end devices.

In a post entitled "The fightback starts now", Anssi Vanjoki responded to high-profile criticism of Nokia's strategy by promising "performance and efforts over and above the norm". Vanjoki became the first holder of his new role on 1 July, moving from his old post in charge of markets to overseeing the Symbian and MeeGo operating systems, and their integration with Nokia's Ovi services.

"There is no denying that, as a challenger now, we have a fight on our hands," Anjoki wrote. "The first battle is to bring you products and services you will want to own and use, to inspire you to create and do new things in this ever-changing digital world. I'm ready to take this challenge on, and so is the entire Nokia team.

Anssi Vanjoki photo

Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's executive vice president of mobile solutions, says the company is ready to "produce killer smartphones".

Photo credit: Nokia

"This is a role I've personally been preparing for over the last 20 years. We have all the assets — including R&D and product development — at our disposal under one roof — to produce killer smartphones and market-changing mobile computers."

Nokia lowered its 2010 earnings outlook in June, saying it would lose mobile device market share "primarily due to the competitive situation at the high-end of the market and shifts in product mix". The company has around 40 percent market share globally, but it is comparatively weak in North America, where the market is ruled by the iPhone, the BlackBerry and Android devices.

Vanjoki addressed reports of a recent statement by a Nokia spokesperson, which suggested that after the upcoming N8, the company's high-end N-series smartphones will run on MeeGo rather than Symbian. He explained that the N8 will be the only N-series handset to use Symbian^3, which is the first fully open-sourced version of the venerable operating system, and the last before a major user interface revamp. However, he added that a Symbian^4 N-series device is "a very strong possibility".

Symbian has "taken a lot of criticism lately — some of it fair, some not," the Nokia executive acknowledged. The complaints have centred on the perception that the operating system lags behind rivals such as Android and the iPhone, which are seen by many as having more current, touch-centric user interfaces, as well as growing support among developers. Vanjoki defended the use of Symbian^3 on the N8, arguing that "people want a smartphone that is familiar".

On Thursday, prominent Symbian fansite blogger Ricky Cadden — proprietor of — announced his site would no longer be updated, saying he "can't continue to support a manufacturer who puts out such craptastic 'flagships' as the N97, and who expects me to use services that even most of Nokia's own employees don't use". Cadden said he would be purchasing an Android device instead.

"You guys are losing. Hard," Cadden wrote. "Wake the hell up. Doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I've been a huge Nokia fan since my second cellphone, and I just can't do it any longer."

Vanjoki directly referred to Cadden's decision, saying in his blog post on Friday that Nokia was "determined to win back supporters, including Ricky, our favourite Symbian Guru". He also scotched rumours of Nokia producing an Android handset, saying there were "no plans" for such a device. Nokia had to dispel the same rumours a year ago.

According to Vanjoki, Symbian is Nokia's competitor to "the likes of iPhone and Android", while MeeGo — the Linux-based joint project of Nokia and Intel that could make it onto some N-series handsets — is "taking clear aim at the computing space".

"The current phase of MeeGo development is looking awesome," Vanjoki wrote. "We believe it will power the computers of the future. Working with Intel, we've combined our assets to create a software platform that completely integrates mobile elements such as GPS, Bluetooth, NFC and more. This will offer developers a rich environment to create new possibilities for users."


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