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7/2/2010
11:29 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Nokia Vows To Regain Mobile Leadership

Nokia's new Mobile Solutions chief Anssi Vanjoki posted an impassioned letter saying that Nokia will once again rule the mobile world with an iron fist. I have my doubts.

Nokia is in trouble, and it knows it. On Thursday, Ricky Cadden, who has run Symbian-Guru.com for years, called it quits. In an emotional letter, Cadden explained that he simply can't put up with Nokia's failures any more, and can't support the firm he once wrote about with enthusiasm and excitement. Cadden isn't alone. A string of missteps has put Nokia behind competitors Apple and Google when it comes to innovation and success. Vanjoki isn't having it.

"As head of Mobile Solutions, it's my aim to ensure Nokia stays as the market and intellectual leader in creating the digital world. I'm under no illusions; it's no small task," he wrote. I'll say. Nokia's Symbian platform may still own 40% of the smartphone market, but that has dropped dramatically the last few years as Apple, Google, and RIM have stolen market share.

Vanjoki continued, "I am committed, perhaps even obsessed, with getting Nokia back to being number one in high-end devices. Achieving this will require performance and efforts over and above the norm. 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." This is true. Nokia has the talent. The problem, however, is that Nokia hasn't been able to capitalize on this talent for years now. I know that Nokia employees are passionate about what they do and want to make great and exciting products. Somehow, it's just not happening.

What worries me most is that Vanjoki is still banking on Symbian. "Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing the Nokia N8, the first Symbian^3 phone from Nokia," Vanjoki said. "Symbian and MeeGo are the best software for our smartest devices. Symbian is our platform of choice for Nokia smartphones." He goes on to note that Symbian has taken a lot of criticism and says that some of the criticism is fair, but some is not.

The base code for Symbian was developed close to 10 years ago. That's five lifetimes in the mobile space, which changes so rapidly phones are outdated within a week or two of their release. Vanjoki claims that people want something "familiar." This is his excuse for sticking with Symbian. I'd argue the exact opposite. Why else do you think Nokia's smartphone share has dropped from 75% worldwide to 40%? It's because people didn't want something familiar. They want something new. Something that looks better, works better, and is easier to use.

I was recently able to spend some time with the Nokia N8. The N8, in line to be Nokia's next flagship product, runs the latest version of Symbian. The user interface is just as bad as it has always been. It is so similar to what Nokia's developed for years, that I want to cry. Nokia needs to make a serious leap forward with its software if it really wants to compete with Apple, Google and RIM. So far, it hasn't proven that it can do that.

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