Nokia Connection – The Lazarus Pit for Nokia?
The past few months for Nokia have been not the best of times. They were being panned in the press, Social media streams, blogs, publications and by some of their consumers even. In short, Nokia was in a bit of a spot. With pressure mounting on Nokia to release game changing and market disrupting devices. Within the Nokia community and the fanboys, it was beginning to look old and sure enough needed the elixir of youth or a dip in the Lazarus Pit to look young, fresh and energized.
Cut to Nokia Connection 2011, Nokia had been letting everyone know of what it intended to do. Nokia wanted to disrupt the market and stir it up just a bit. And that’s exactly what they did. Nokia has successfully managed to stir the market alright. But I don’t think it’s the top end of the pool but the lower end…. where the basic devices lie. The top end of the spectrum where one would typically hope to see a few Nokia devices, lies vacant. Those positions occupied by a fruit inspired company – Apple and the Korean chaebol – Samsung.
Things have changed dramatically in the mobile phone industry. The market leader is today playing catch up while another once dominant player also seeming lost in the woods. Some old players making a comeback… Things sure have turned inside out.
A lot of people might disagree to my statement that I just made, but The N9 is a great show device, a brilliant execution of some amazing UI, design and the overall comfort of having a truly futuristic device. The N950 which is a developer device is equally amazing and should be seen in a much different light, since it is quite honestly a proper device in it’s own right. If you did see the Nokia Connection video, you will have noticed that the N9 looked totally different from any Nokia offering, in fact it looked completely ‘un-Nokia’. That is one of the best things to happen to Nokia in recent times. The direction explored by the N9 is one that Nokia should carry on with confidence and vigour.
The platform or the OS in question on the N9 – MeeGo is however a relic, at least for Nokia. A valuable and profitable ‘thing’ that was cast away too early and too hurriedly. A mistake, I feel might be quite costly for them. But let’s leave the rant for another time and another post.
The Nokia N9 is one of the freshest devices to come out of the Nokia design departments. Sure the N8 and E7 were pretty super too, but then the N9 looks a whole 10 years younger than the aluminum devices. I won’t go into the detailed specs. They can be downloaded and viewed in detail from here (1-nokia-n9-data-sheet). What the N9 brings are a lot of genuine possibilities for mobile phones and how they will evolve and continue to be used. It will however never be mainstream. A pity since this device is generating all the buzz and will continue to do so in the near future.
At 1GHz, 1GB of RAM, the device is quite competitive on paper. I was pleasantly surprised and quite happy to see it… Is it disruptive? Will it create ripples in the top end of the segment? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Anti-Nokia or anything of that sort, if you have seen my tweets, then you’ll know that I have a soft spot for the brand and more for the MeeGo platform. The device is quite disruptive for Nokia at best. MeeGo holds a lot of promise and with this Harmattan build, Nokia has just scratched the surface. The device and the OS if properly nurtured by Nokia, could result in an opportunity bigger than Windows Phone also.
As for creating ripples, with a small production run and the fact that dual core Androids and the impending iPhone5 along with tablets are all set to transform how we look at hardware and software, the N9 might just be a footnote, an idea that could have been…so much more!
Nokia has charted a course with the N9, one that all loyalists will hope it completes. The MeeGo platform holds tremendous promise. It needs to be equipped with current generation hardware, I’m not talking dual core, but single core. It’s hard to find fault with the N9 – A device that’s next to perfect. With the Qt layer apps should come quickly to it. However with Nokia’s commitment to it being questionable this might just trickle down to a few. I hope that does not happen, but it is a possibility. With Stephen Elop confirming that there’s no going back to MeeGo even if it is a success is a clear sign of how much of mistake this might turn out to be. Engadget’s editorial points to the fact that maybe Nokia made the mistake of throwing in the towel little early for MeeGo.
Nokia is perhaps the most desperate of all the manufacturers making a transitions from older platforms to newer more inclusive platforms/eco-systems. It has officially stated that Symbian’s days are over. Has turned it’s back on the one OS that could have changed the complete ball game in its favour. Today it is adopting the still raw and a small player in the mobile OS platform market – Windows from Microsoft. Most users might not really like the fit that will bring but at this point I too am speculating that Windows will be a failure for Nokia. If it is, then I wonder what further changes – internal and external will be brought about to return the former No.1 to it’s days of glory. If the Windows platform truly brings about a real reversal in Nokia’s fortunes (marketing, public perception, financially) then it might be the biggest gamble that Nokia would have pulled off. But having said that it will have to really change gears when it comes to apps, features. For today, to survive one needs to be as aggressive as Apple was when it launched the iOS on the first iPhone.
At Nokia Connection, it showed a glimpse of that, the implementation of ‘nfc’ on devices and the simplicity of using it reminded the author of Apple WWDC events. The N9 could have been viewed in similar light had it not been for Elop’s damning statements about the MeeGo platform. Nokia has in itself the capacity to manage multiple platforms and create masterpieces. It still is looked upon for providing competent hardware solutions. Nokia’s attempt to transform into a services and solutions company however was too far fetched, a slew of launches and closures under the Ovi brand, has also contributed to Nokia’s slide in fortunes as the focus clearly shifted from products to solutions. For a moment it seemed like Nokia was pulling a Sony Ericsson on us. It’s clear that Nokia needs to return to the way it did things before – Provide compelling and market friendly hardware with simple, scalable and customizable platform that can support developers, customers, operators and themselves as well.
The purposeful leaks of the next gen Windows phone, the first Nokia Windows phone code named ‘Sea Ray’ have however created a ripple in the market. Will it help Nokia? That’s a question which can only be answered as more such ‘leaks’ sprout from Espoo.
Just like Ra’s al Ghul from Batman takes a dip into the rejuvenating waters of the Lazarus Pit to emerge young and energetic. Nokia too, has attempted something similar in Singapore. It remains to be seen if Nokia will emerge younger and energized from the exercise or just wet and bruised!
Here’ the video of the Sea Ray in case you just wanted to see the ‘leak’!