Nokia's Booklet could be a new chapter in business IT

Nokia has revealed some cool hardware in its new netbook. A good start, but only solid strategy will build success

Nokia's entry into netbooks reveals a company with a very sober assessment of the market.

With so many technologies at its disposal and a long history of making its own rules, Nokia could easily have produced something very different — an ARM processor running one of a variety of Linux options, or an interface mutated from a smartphone. A company capable of producing the N-Gage is a company capable of anything.

None of the above happened. The specification of the Booklet 3G is conservative and ideal for corporate use: solid connectivity, a reasonably sized screen, exceptional battery life, metal casing and Windows make it an attractive proposition.

Moreover, it is easy for wireless network operators to bundle and sell, especially on the back of the Windows 7 publicity tiger. In a market where innovation is often an excuse for lack of discipline, this buttoned-down approach is cool and correct.

There has to be more than that for success. Nokia has said it will be bundling its Ovi suite of services with the Booklet 3G, but these lack the corporate touch. There is nothing wrong with the basic functionality — email, remote file access and transfer — but it is heavily biased towards individual media and individual PCs, ideas that are a bad fit for company IT managers with security and appropriate use in mind.

Yet the corporate mobile market is largely untouched, with Apple content to ignore business, Microsoft's wireless strategy stuck so far in the past that even Doctor Who would have trouble saving it, and Google happy to let everyone guess what it's up to. Nokia has no existing business to protect here and thus an enviably free rein to set its own agenda.

If Nokia can produce online services that seamlessly merge the netbook and the corporate network, including getting the carriers to offer properly managed and sensibly costed business options, it will be solving real problems for real people. And that, far more than questions of operating systems and interfaces, is the recipe for capturing, growing and owning a market.

Nokia has started well. We hope that it finishes in the same way, and finally gives business IT the chance to fulfil some of the promises that mobility has made.


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