Dear Nokia: Form factors won't save you.
By David BRAUE
Not too many years from now, business-school textbooks will offer unflinching assessments of the fall from grace that characterised the decline of Nokia, which has bet the farm on a Windows Phone 7-based smartphone strategy that is working with critics but may or may not bear enough commercial fruit to put some heft under its flailing wings.
It’s amazing, really: once the undisputed king of the mobile, Nokia has been reduced to promising that its strategy to save itself will depend on its ability to develop different form factors. You know, so you can do completely different things than you can already do today.
Surely, a company that spends billions on R&D each year, as Nokia does, must realise that a statement like this can only go so far? New form factors are all well and great, but if you think you’re going to provide the kind of revenue uptick that Nokia needs with a smartphone you wear on your head or a wraparound tablet that doubles as a heart monitor, you’ve got another thing coming.
The only really new, significant form factor we’ve had in the past few years has been the iPad, which revolutionised tablet computing. Oh, wait a second: tablet PCs have been around since the late 1990s.
It must have been the smartphone, then – the touchscreen device brought to the mass market by Apple. You know, back in the early 1990s. Which it killed off because it wasn’t selling enough to support its flagging revenues.
For the head of Nokia to argue that newer, cooler devices will save its skin shows just how misguided the company has become. After years of getting whipped by Apple, Nokia still hasn’t figured out that it’s an engineering company that needs a content solution – and not just new devices – to save its hide.
History has now shown that the only thing that could help Nokia’s smartphones was to ditch its sagging Symbian operating system for something people actually liked to use. To complete the transition, Nokia will need to partner with some sort of content provider – the likes of Sony, or Bertelsmann if they want to stick with a fellow Eurozone firm – to build a compelling value proposition that consumers might actually care about.
Because the one thing Apple figured out a long time ago is simple: consumers buy devices for the sexy, but they stay for the content. Keep them happily immersed in more music, TV and movies than they can watch, and you’ve got them hooked.
Or, wait. Hold on, I’ve got it: haptic computing. Nokia will revolutionise the world by developing a smartphone that works without the use of hands, levitates alongside you wherever you are, and transcribes text messages by remotely reading your brainwave activity. It will drive your car, do your taxes, advise you how to dress for the weather, and look after your children.
Actually, the iPad is pretty good at that last one too. Back to the drawing board with you, Nokia.
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