Down in the forest something stirs. In his first few days in the job, Anssi Vanjoki, the new head of Mobile Solutions at Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia, posted a hefty blog in which he admits the company has lost its crown in the smartphone market and that it has been relegated to the position of "a challenger". However, he adds that the "fightback starts now". At last reality bites - and not before time. Martyn Warwick reports.
The new boss adds that Nokia will henceforth be "advancing current projects and working to simplify the way we work in order to deliver products and services faster, and with a laser focus on quality".
Before Mr. Vanjoki's admission, Nokia had been severely and repeatedly criticised for losing its its edge at the smartphones end of the market but now he promises "performance and efforts above the norm". They'll need to be if Nokia is to claw its way back to the top of the greasy pole in the face of very, very determined competition from the likes of the Asian handset manufacturers who have been responding to consumer demands so much more flexibly and quickly than Nokia.
The new man is in charge of the further development of the Symbian and the MeeGo Linux platdorm-based operating systems and their integration with Nokia's much-vaunted Ovi services.
Top of the project list is the N8 smartphone, Nokia's first Symbian 3 handset on which a lot has been spent and many hopes rest. Vanjoki call the device an "entertainment powerhouse" and it will certainly need to be something special.
Interestingly and significantly, the coming man announced that Nokia has no plans to produce smartphones based on Android but added that the company's first MeeGo handset (developed with Intel) will hit the consumer market "later this year." He also threw into the mixture a strong hint that the next iteration of the 'N' series will run on Symbian 4.
Nokia is then putting all its eggs in two baskets and ignoring a third big one. It's a gamble, but Anssi Vanjoki obviously believes that the way forward is to focus on the 40 per cent of smartphone owners with Symbian-based devices whilst working to raise that percentage by appealing to consumers to move over from Android. Thay may take some convincing.
And he's certainly bigging-up Symbian.
Vanjoki says the N8 is "a smartphone that is familiar and packed with features" while retaining "the best and most familiar parts of Symbian, making it effortless for the largest population of smartphone users to upgrade".
Not a man afeared to big himself up as well and to toot his own vuvuzuela, as it were, Mr. Vanjoki tells his blog readers, "This is a role I've personally been preparing for over the last 20 years. We have all the assets, including R&D and product development, at our disposal under one roof to produce killer smartphones and market-changing mobile computers."
We have been told; we have been warned. However, we also know that last month Nokia downgraded its 2010 forecasts and admitted that it would lose a further slice of the mobile device market as a result of "the competitive situation at the high-end of the market and shifts in product mix".
Nokia has also shifted much of its focus away from the vital North American market, where it is sidelined and where the iPhone, BlackBerry and various Android-based devices now rule supreme, to selling low-end handsets into developing markets - a "me too" strategy that is generating profits in the short-term but is no long-term substitute for a coherent top-end smartphone plan.
Meanwhile, and pouring some rain on Mr. Vanjoki's parade, Ricky Cadden a popular and influential blogger and well-known cheer-leader for Symbian wrote that he "can't continue to support a manufacturer who puts out such craptastic 'flagships' as the N97, and who expects me to use services that even most of Nokia's own employees don't use". Oww!
He continued, "You guys [Nokia] are losing. Hard. Wake the hell up. Doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I've been a huge Nokia fan since my second cellphone, and I just can't do it any longer." Oof!
Putting a final boot in Mr. Cadden added, "I'm buying an Android device instead." Erk! But then so are lots of other former Nokia afficionados.
And, of course, Nokia's rivals aren't standing still and for the diminished Finnish company fighting the way back to the Number One position in smartphones is going to be a back-breaking and will-sapping war of attrition.
Good Luck, you'll need it.
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