Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins insists RIM has larger and more active installed base of smartphone users than Nokia. He doesn't think much of Android, either.
Thorsten Heins had some interesting things to say about Research In Motion's competitors during a recent interview with The Verge. When comparing RIM to Nokia, Heins thinks the BlackBerry maker has much better footing than does its Finnish competitor for several reasons.
"I think we're in a different position," said Heins to The Verge. "We have roughly 80 million users today--Nokia doesn't have that, they're not in the service play, they have no value on top of the handsets."
Strong words, Thorsten, strong worlds. Let's look at these statements to see just how valid they are.
First, RIM counts 80 million active smartphone users and says Nokia doesn't have that many. Could this possibly be true?
Well, if Heins is talking about active users of Nokia's Lumia Windows Phones, then yes, he's probably right. We don't know with any certainty the exact number of Windows Phones Nokia has sold to date, but estimates place the number between 2.8 and 3.8 million for the second quarter of 2012. Add those to the approximate 2 million it sold during the first quarter, and we're looking at a total somewhere north of 5 million. Yes, that number pales in comparison next to RIM's 80 million active users.
However, Nokia still sells Symbian smartphones and surely has a significant number of customers who are still using older Symbian smartphones.
In 2010, Nokia reported total mobile device sales of 452.9 million, 103.6 million of which were "smart devices" (a.k.a. Symbian smartphones). In 2011, Nokia sold 417.1 million, 77.3 million of which were "smart devices." In the first quarter of 2012, Nokia sold 10 million Symbian devices.
If we forget about 2010 sales and add only Nokia's 2011 Symbian device sales to the first quarter sales of 2012, we get 87.3 million Symbian devices. That's cutting it pretty close, Thorsten.
Second, Nokia isn't in the service play. Well, this is true, unfortunately, though it didn't used to be. As recently as 2008 and 2009, Nokia attempted to be a services and device company, with its own mobile email and device management strategies. Nokia eventually gave up on those businesses to focus on mobile devices and networking gear.
RIM, on the other hand, offers devices, management software, and a communications network. Additionally, RIM owns its own platform. Nokia is using Microsoft's platform. There are clear differences here between the two companies, though at this point it's hard to say which business model is servicing RIM and Nokia better at the moment.
Last, Heins says Nokia provides no real value beyond handsets. I don't believe that's true.
Nokia may be licensing Windows Phone and may not have its own services operations anymore, but it is offering custom-made software for Windows Phone devices, such as Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, the ESPN Hub, and others. Beyond that, Nokia's Navteq unit is set to provide the mapping data for all Windows Phones, not just Nokia's, supplanting Bing Maps on devices and on desktops. In fact, Heins might want to remember that RIM gets its mapping data from none other than Navteq.
Beyond Nokia, Heins made it clear that RIM will never consider using Google's Android platform.
"If I look at the potential on Android, there's not much out there," he told The Verge. "Android is starting to fragment and fork, so I don't know. My view is that we're not just in the handset business. We're in the mobile services, communication, and connection business. I don't think we're well advised to move onto another open software system and be at the directive of that provider, where they can say 'you can't do this, you're restricted to do that, I restrict what you can do with hardware.' Where's the potential for differentiation there? Where's the growth potential for us? I don't think moving to another platform would pay dividends to RIM or its shareholders."
I have to agree with him on this point. While I have no doubt that RIM could conjure up some excellent Android hardware, it would still be competing with hundreds of models made by dozens of other OEMs in a market dominated by one player: Samsung.
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