Nokia, it's time to do something drastic.
It's time to completely reevaluate your strategy. A key part of this change of strategy should be the divestiture of your almost total reliance on Symbian. Business users, the core of the smart phone market, are abandoning the Symbian OS for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry. Your reliance on Symbian is unsustainable if you want to turn around your shrinking market share in smartphones.
Why is Symbian such an issue for Nokia?
Symbian, although recently open sourced, is still being driven almost exclusively by Nokia. And Symbian needs a total revamping before it becomes even closely competitive to the likes of Android and Apple's
Nokia and Intel's
Nokia, here is what I believe you need to do, and do right away.
First, mothball your engineering efforts on Symbian and put it into mature, legacy mode. You can continue to use it for a limited time in S60 platforms until the next major release of strategic product is available. Next, I would immediately shift all efforts in two parallel directions. First, base a current line of smart phone devices on Android with a customized Nokia UI (much like HTC does with Sense and Moto does with Blur). This should allow you to get to market very quickly with a line of compelling smartphone devices that are competitive while giving current Nokia users a migration path with a familiar UI paradigm.
Second, you should immediately state that your direction for future, mid- to high-end and performance devices (not just the N-class and tablets) will be built around MeeGo, and apply enough resources to get an advanced OS ready for launch on a number of devices no later than 12 months from now. Sooner would be much better. And you should start building an app developer ecosystem now, perhaps working more closely with Intel who has a vested interest in making MeeGo, which runs on its Atom chips, a highly competitive mobile platform. And other vendors, especially in the Far East are now taking the platform seriously enough to make an investment in MeeGo for smart devices.
As a result of this strategic realignment, Android becomes your feature phone on the lower end, and MeeGo becomes the performance platform where you can innovate and add real value. Both platforms will have true multi-vendor support, and you will not be required to be the sole provider of innovation and implementation -- a big market advantage for you. The days of needing to be totally vertically integrated, owning your own OS are pretty much over (unless you are Apple). Moto learned this lesson and is now on a roll.
A couple of years ago, I recommended that Symbian and Android should merge. There would have been benefit to the maturity in drivers and phone operation that Symbian offered to Android. I believe now it is too late and Symbian is doomed to fade away over time. Nokia, it's time to cut your losses and move on. If not, you will be relegated to a me-too vendor in the smart phone space where most of the profits lie, and be forced to primarily compete head on in the cutthroat low end consumer device space against the many up and coming vendors from the Far East. That's not a winning strategy if you want to remain profitably among the top three vendors worldwide. Time is of the essence before the market passes you by.
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Jack Gold is the founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, an information technology analyst firm based in Northborough, Mass., covering the many aspects of business and consumer computing and emerging technologies.
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