Nokia has begun its campaign to re-imagine itself at Mobile World Congress and is looking to become the most operator-friendly smartphone vendor

The news of Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft seems to be sinking in at Mobile World Congress. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop continues to appear throughout the event to again tell people why this move makes sense. He’s confident in his messaging and delivering it clearly but his enthusiastic explanations don’t do the scope of the announcement justice.

Elop declared at Monday’s keynote presentation: "A battle of devices is shifting to a war of ecosystems.”

This signals a move in the market that has been coming into focus in 2010 with the emergence of Android as a true force in the smartphone market. Throughout Mobile World Congress, Elop has been banging the “three-horse race” messaging hard and Windows Phone 7 with Nokia’s reach will create a third combatant in the smartphone market. This will be a definite but distant third player and one that will have to make a pretty drastic statement when they finally bring a device to market.

Jo Harlow, senior vice president marketing at Nokia Mobile Phones, has hinted that this will be within 2011 but her statement was definitely not a guarantee.

Operator Friendly

What has been interesting since the initial announcement Friday night, where Elop said he’d been on the phone with European operators reassuring them, is the operator-friendly message that Elop has been emphasizing. Elop seems to be carving the smartphone market up and putting Nokia on the side of the operator and its business model.

Operators are in a unique position and need all of the help they can get to retain revenue and take some control back in the market they brought to life. If you are an operator you see Apple taking market share in areas you’d like to excel in while Google has seen Android explode in 2010 and at the same time a revenue hog on the web. In the smartphone market these two players are in a luxurious position as operators grasp at different ways to answer the “dumb pipe” question.

Nokia and Microsoft have the opportunity to be the shoulder to cry for operators that have seen opportunities squander elsewhere. iPhone is established and Android is a force in the market as we have seen throughout Mobile World Congress with this additional platform creating, what Nokia says, will be more competition and choice for operators.

Elop explicitly addressed the operator community during the Microsoft keynote on Monday and let them know that Nokia’s new partnership will create the most operator-friendly smartphone platform in the market. He added that Nokia and Microsoft would help operators to retain and drive revenue, which aren’t likely goals for Apple.

Elop said: “We understand what it means to be friendly to operators."

This kind of messaging plays into Nokia’s history of strong partnerships with its operator partners and broadly makes sense but looking at another aspectof Nokia’s business you wonder if Nokia needs to focus on the smartphone market. The company has shown its strength around the world with feature phones and is still a force in the market even though it may not appear to be an innovator any longer.

Peters Suh, CEO of Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) noted in an application-focused keynote panel that Nokia has between 30%-40% global market share in handsets, which he then followed up by saying, “but I’m not sure that the smartphone market is a global phenomenon”. This is a fair statement as emerging markets with limited mobile coverage may struggle to take advantage of advanced features.

Feature Phones Not Its Future?

Suh was highlighting that perhaps this doesn’t play to Nokia’s overall position or strengths in the mobile market. It may not want to play the role of emerging market or feature phone vendor but that may be what it is good at. Nokia has been looking for an identity for some time and this move has not brought anymore clarity into play.

What is clear is Elop may be playing to operators now but eventually Nokia will need to attract consumers and prove to them that its Windows Phone 7 devices are not just operator friendly but customer friendly as well.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Advertisements

On the second day of Mobile World Congress 2011, the event hosted an operator keynote panel. This keynote panel session included insights on a broad range of topics across the mobile market. Here are some short highlights from the panel:

  • Audioboo: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, gives predictions for mobile penetration http://boo.fm/b278532

  • Audioboo: Daniel Hajj, American Movil, gives an overview of the Latam mobile Market. http://boo.fm/b278441

  • Audioboo: Wang Jianzhou, Chairman & CEO, China Mobile talks about the explosion in mobile data. http://boo.fm/b278425

@Matthew_Whalley

@Edel_Telecom

As part of our work with Orange, at a Group level, we’ve recently been involved in the launch of Mobile Exposure 2010 research and the launch of a new tool for advertisers – the Orange Mobile Targeting Monitor.

We wanted to share the research findings on the Pheasant for a couple of reasons:

  • The data is interesting from a tech point of view.  It reveals what content mobile media users in the UK, France, Poland and Spain are engaging with and when.   Of particular note is how applications are sitting alongside the mobile browser.  The research is a bit of a bench mark, so as Smartphone penetration grows it will be interesting to see how this usage evolves.
  • The advertising tool highlights the insight that is used to build advertising campaigns.  As I said in a post last week, PRs need to continue to use data to inform our thinking

Included here is a deck with the key research highlights.  If this subject is particularly of interest to you – then whiz over to the Orange micro-site to read and view more.

@LukeMackay

*just in case the above isn’t clear….  Disclaimer: Orange is a client, and I work on the account.  Our team was involved in the creation of some of the Exposure 2010 materials*

It looks like the smartphone sector is going through a bumpy patch. Google has closed down its Nexus One on-line store, while there’s disquiet amongst developers over the application store model of distributing and monetising content.

Feels to me like growing pains for a sector of the mobile market that has witnessed massive growth in a relatively short space of time.

Google’s travails in flogging actual handsets simply proves that sometimes you can have a bad idea – namely believing consumers will ditch a rational desire to physically see and touch something before purchase.

The developers bellyaching is a sign of a maturing market in which manufacturers are starting to realise that the distribution models that allowed them to build a business in the first place are not as flexible nor favourable as they once appeared.

However, while we can put these spats down to the mobile phone market’s equivalent of puberty, everyone should guard against a turn back towards closed platforms. Virtually every major handset manufacturer has either developed – or bought – some form of mobile OS and while all the talk is of open standards and interoperability, the temptation to “do an Apple” and try and build a closed platform that locks customers in must be tempting.

That would be massively against the spirit of the age and potentially damaging to the industry.

Consumers are putting a premium on choice while developers thrive on the develop-once/publish-many model. In a market where software is becoming the main selling point, manufacturers and mobile operators are fighting to remain relevant and this makes for a delicate balancing act between, on the one side, innovating on design, functionality, tariffs and service while on the other, ensuring both developers and customers have access to a broad ecosystem of applications and content.

It’s a tough task and there are bound to be more bumps along the way. For the smartphone sector to continue to innovate and thrive however, everyone needs to be kept ‘appy.

@paulwooding1973