They won't say it outright, but this lack of attention does bother Nokia. Its latest flagship handset, the N97, is arguably one of the most technologically-advanced smartphone the world has seen, but it has been getting killed in reviews.
To address this, the company is in the middle of a tremendous shift in corporate philosophy. Of course, the selling of hardware will always be important to it and its bottom line, but it is making a major play toward offering services and empowering developers. It already offers games, music, applications, and mapping, and this will eventually all be aggregated under its Ovi platform. Nokia said it expects to consolidate all these services within six to twelve months, and it should make it a more enticing platform for content creators.
Being big has its advantages, and Nokia said acquisitions have been a major part of its strategic shift. Over the last year or so, the company has purchased software companies, multimedia firms, social networking experts, and messaging companies. The $8.1 billion acquisition of Navteq in 2007 is a bigger deal than I think most are realizing. The mapping infrastructure and data will enable Nokia's platform to be more location-relevant than its rivals, and this should lead to innovative apps that take advantage of where a user really is, not a GPS approximation. Of course, purchasing companies does not always mean you'll be successful, as Nokia saw with its $430 million acquisition of Intellisync.
Serious developers know that ignoring Nokia and Symbian makes it far more difficult to make money off your apps. Nokia said it has a robust community of content creators - they estimate the figure is about 3.5 million. By comparison, the highly-popular iPhone has about 10,000 developers in its program. The independent app store GetJar recently announced it has hit half a billion downloads, and the majority of those are for Symbian devices.
But being big also has its disadvantages, as it takes a lot longer for the company to get rolling in a certain direction (Some circles have described Nokia as similar to General Motors in the 1970s). One could argue that Nokia was late to the game with 3G, and some would say it currently lags behind in touch input and user interfaces. Additionally, having to cater to a global market also carriers its own burdens that other players don't have to deal with to the same extent.
So, it's going to be a major challenge that is full of potential pitfalls and missteps. I tend to have a more positive outlook on Nokia and its ability to change - I believe they have the right leadership, strategy and will to be the top player in a rapidly-evolving mobile computing world. But good intentions and strategies sound wonderful, but it will only get you so far. It will be fun to watch if they can pull off the difficult execution.
On a side note, Nokia's Ojanpera will be on a panel discussion at Thursday's MobileBeat 2009 conference. I'll be there, and will be writing multiple stories about expert opinions on the mobile industry. If you want real-time updates, feel free to follow me on Twitter at Twitter.com/marinperez.