Nokia makes all the right noises
Clamshell concessions at Nokia Connection 2004
Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila has outlined a multi-pronged attack incorporating more clamshell phones, greater operator customization, better penetration into the mid-range, and faster reactions to handset fashions. Although Mr Ollila made a good argument for putting Nokia's recent woes behind it, the true efficacy of these choices is likely to be seen only in the medium rather than short term.
Among Nokia's most obvious concessions to recent criticism was a fistful of clamshell designs, spanning a number of market segments, unveiled at the Nokia Connection 2004 event in Helsinki.
From a strategic and technical viewpoint, the more interesting products to be launched were the mid-to-high-end 6260 and mid-range 6170. The most notable feature of Nokia's 6260, which is based on the company's Series 60 (S60) variant of Symbian OS, is its screen-rotating mechanism. This a clear nod both to mass-market handset trends and to the rival S60 smart phone from Samsung, the SGH-D700.
The EDGE-enabled 6170 is decidedly more mid-range and uses Nokia's proprietary Series 40 (S40) handset user interface and applications suite, albeit with a twist. The 6170 breaks with conventional S40 thinking in offering a larger-than-usual 128x160 color display, providing considerably more screen real estate than has been usual for Nokia's mid-range handsets.
The move appears to be an effort to address the emerging market for so-called 'feature phones'. These boast large displays and much of the functionality of smart phones but in a less extensible form, either by limiting the handset to mobile Java (J2ME) applications or by tightly controlling smart phone OSs.
However, it is now clear that Nokia plans to take S60 downmarket, towards the feature phone market, as a further means to bolster its mid-market strength, with the original version of S60 soon to be targeted at the mass market.
Touted by Nokia as "the world's smallest 3G megapixel phone" Nokia's latest 3G phone, the 6630, is also the first 3G phone from the vendor to use S60. The device includes VPN access and EDGE connectivity. It also rectifies the lack of video messaging missing in Nokia's earlier 7100.
Operator interest looks strong and both the S40 and S60 are being bolstered by Nokia's acknowledgement that mobile operators require greater freedom to customize, or 'skin' interfaces to their own requirements. S60 will gain open APIs available through future upgrades to its software development kit (SDK), while S40 will also become increasingly customizable.