I'm probably the first to report that the news out of Barcelona is that cell phone giant Nokia is transitioning from being a mobile phone company to being a software company. I'd be wrong, of course. Well, mostly wrong.
When I asked Nokia Senior Vice President Lee Williams whether this was a fair assessment, he clarified things by saying that Nokia is actually in the process of becoming "more" of a software company, rightly suggesting that Nokia already sees itself as a software company, but with intentions of becoming more so.
So what would make me think that Nokia is moving in these directions? For starters, in his keynote presentation at the S60 Summit, Williams spent most of his time talking things like Java, C++, Python, open source, web services, and widgets. And don't forget about the recent acquisition of Trolltech, makers of the Qt Framework. I don't know about you, but that sure sounds like software to me. What he pointedly didn't talk about was stuff like directory assistance, the yellow pages, and 1-900 phone calls.
What would drive Nokia to focus on software? For one thing, the changing nature of the Internet and the role of mobile devices. In this ever-evolving Internet, for instance, Williams sees users as actively participating in the Internet experience, rather than being a passive audience simply browsing through web page after web page. "It's not enough to browse anymore," he explained, adding that "the audience is becoming the actors."
And what's the role of mobile devices in this emerging Internet? From where Williams sits, mobile devices are what will deliver the promise of truly personal computers by providing not only access, but new levels of user experiences. By the year 2010, one-half of the world's population will have mobile devices, he says, and they'll likely be doing more than just calling home. For most of these people, mobile devices will be their gateway to the Internet. Nokia is already seeing this to some extent, with studies that show that 81 percent of current S60 owners are using their mobile phone for web browsing, 50 percent using it for web mail, and 30 percent for instant messaging.
Williams closed his presentation where he started. "The power of the Internet is mobile," he reiterated, "because the Internet plus mobility solves people's real needs."