Speaking in a keynote address at Congress this week Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia, diverted attention from the company’s smartphone activities to discuss opportunities in extending connectivity to the unconnected. Elop stated that “80 percent of the world’s population today are in cell phone signal range, and yet only 20 percent of them are connected to the internet. We can change that, collectively.”
Elop highlighted the fact that developments in this area are beneficial both to the industry and the consumers involved. “For Nokia, it’s good for business. But I must tell you that for the last four months I have travelled all over the world to talk to partners and customers, and the impact of mobile devices in the remote parts of the world is remarkable.”
While the Nokia head noted that when it comes to bringing connectivity to new markets, “one of the most important connections is the first one,” he also stated that “we can go beyond just voice and SMS connections on mobile devices.” Operators and developers can create apps and services to deliver a range of functionality to subscribers, and extend internet access to new subscribers.
In order to drive growth in these emerging markets, Elop promised a “continuous enhancement and new investment” in the company’s mass-market Series 30 and Series 40 device portfolios, which play an “incredibly important role” in the Nokia portfolio – even if they are overshadowed in column inches by its smartphone strategy. Features set for wider penetration include dual SIM support, touch-and-type input, and QWERTY keypads, although the need for an “aspiration” design was also trumpeted: “regardless of where you are on the economic pyramid, you want to feel great about what you carry in your pocket.”
Nokia is also set to make “a deliberate investment” to expand its services, including the already-announced Nokia Money and Nokia Life Tools. Its roadmap includes social networking, instant messaging and email solutions for low-tier users, and an extension of Nokia’s mapping offerings to Series 40 devices. Elop also said the company will “drive third-party innovation in this area, through global partnerships with local developers,” in order to deliver products targeting specific markets.
This move comes as Nokia’s smartphone sales continue to loose market share to Google’s Android-based devices. Nokia saw it’s hold on the smartphone market tumble from 51% of new handset sales in 2Q 2009 to 41% in 2Q 2010. During the same period, sales in handsets running on Android rose from 1.8% to 17.2%.
Google is not the only challenger to Nokia’s throne. Research In Motion’s range of Blackberry products, including the much-anticipated PlayBook, still stand as serious contenders (although Google is rapidly outpacing R.I.M. as well).
It is important to note that Nokia is not moving out of the Smartphone market altogether, as attested by their recent entry into a “strategic partnership” with Microsoft which will see integration of Windows Phone 7 into Nokia smartphones.
Speaking at the recent Mobile World Congress, Elop said “as we achieve our first priority of beating Android, we’ll be competing within the Windows Phone ecosystem, and that’s fair.”
By Angela Meadon