CCS Insight analyst Shaun Collins said, "Frankly, we're quite baffled by Nokia's lack of presence in the North American market." I am, too. He went on to say, "Given its global domination, we've tried to come up with explanations as to why Nokia doesn't make a bigger push in North America. But we can't figure it out."
One sentiment shared by fellow attendees is that the current walled-garden approach being taken by the U.S. network operators is one factor standing in the way. The defining characteristic of Symbian and S60 is its customization and flexibility. "The open platform gives mobile users more choice and provides a platform upon which new applications and services can be built", said Matti Vanska, vice president, Mobile Software Sales and Marketing, Nokia. If there's one thing U.S. network operators seem to abhor, it's the notion of providing users with the ability to reach content and services that are off their respective decks. The devices themselves are often crippled by network operators who don't want users to have access to this feature or that feature.
Granted, business-class devices running Palm OS, Windows Mobile, or BlackBerry OS do have access to thousands of third party applications, especially on the enterprise side. The fact that many of them are available via white-labeled services through the carriers, however, underscores the walled-garden approach.
Jose Antonio Moujadami, Telefonica Moviles Espana head of applications and open OS devices, noted that open systems such as S60 create difficult challenges for network operators. But he also said, "Defensive strategies don't work in the long term." Moujadami believes that the network operators have to embrace the open OS community in order to provide the highest level of services for their customers. He said Telefonica has only recently realized this and is moving in that direction with the help of the S60 community. One of Moujadami's concluding remarks was, "We [operators] need to evolve to remain relevant in the new ecosystem. Innovation through collaboration is one of the key roots to sustainable competitive advantage."
Until the U.S. network operators latch on to the idea of more open collaboration with their hardware and software partners, evolution will continue to move at a snail's pace while the rest of the world leaps ahead.