There was more bad press over the weekend for troubled Nokia. The firing of CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo on Friday in acknowledgment that the both the company's fortune's and popular enthusiasm for it's handsets are on the wane, was followed by the unwelcome news that Google's Android is, by 2014, set to overtake Nokia's Symbian to become the world's most popular smartphone operating system. Martyn Warwick reports.
A new report from research house Gartner reveals that in just 12 months, and by the end of this year, the Android OS will have eclipsed the world's other big, popular and competing mobile operating system from the likes of the Apple, Research in Motion and Microsoft and, unless new CEO Stephen Elop can get the Finns flying again, sharpish, Nokia's Symbian OS will become an also-ran as well.
Gartner's latest annual global smartphone forecast shows that Android, will, by the end of this year, be the earth's second-most-popular operating system with 17.7 per cent of world-wide sales. The uptake and popularity on the part of consumers has been remakable. At the end of 2009, the OS commanded a market share of just 3.9 per cent. Google claims that in excess of more than 200,000 Android OS-powered mobile devices are activated each and every day.
And as the likes of With LG, Motorola Samsung and Sony Ericsson, lining-up to embed the Android in a wide array of new mobile handsets that will be introduced within the next three months. Gartner forecasts that Android is on the verge of becoming a mass-market phenomenon and will commandeer twice the global market share of iPhone within four years. Nokia needs to be afraid.
Roberata Cozza, a principal research analyst at Gartner says,"This is a matter of Android going more and more into the hands of the mainstream user. The iPhone will remain focused toward the higher end of the market, while, through the end of this year and into 2011, all the growth in Android will come from the fact that most of the vendors who are backing it will release cheaper smartphones."
Gartner's prognosis is that by the end of 2014, Android and Symbian will , between them, account for about 30 per cent of global smartphone sales, with Apple's iOS in third place with some about 15 per cent of the global market and RIM at Number Four with 12 per cent.
So, Nokia knows what could happen and it's now up to the new CEO to ensure that Gartner's forecast won't come to pass as reality.
Nokia has tremendous engineering capabilities and, given the right leadership, the company still has time to bounce back and develop cutting-edge smartphones. However, that window of opportunity won't be open for long and the worst that could happen is a half-hearterd "too little, too late" response.
It should be remembered that Nokia squandered its lead by reacting far too slowly to consumer enthusiasm for touch-screen handsets with open Web browsers.
A mixture of complacency and an arrogant "we know the market best" attitude engendered by its earlier runaway success resulted in a hubris that, hopefully, now that reality has bitten, and bitten hard, will not end in corporate nemesis.
Historically, Nokia has tended to have a longer product development cycle than many other mobile device manufacturers and whilst that was a strong point in the past and no doubt contributed to the early success of highly-engineered, robust and reliable mobile phones, times have changed and other manufacturers are fleeter of foot and quicker at getting new device models out and into the market.
The fact of the matter is that Nokia is particularly vulnerable in the high-end smartphone market and what growth the company is registering (and there is no doubt that Nokia remains a highly potent force in mobile telephony even if the light isn't shining quite as brightly as it used to) comes from low-end, entry-level, pretty basic handsets for mass uptake in emerging markets where profit margins are very small.
Nokia is shifting shedlods of these devices and it's a good short-term easy-win bet, but it's no long-term sustainable strategy - especially when it's market share in its former stronghold of western Europe is in decline. To make matters worse, Nokia remains virtually unknown to the US consumer.
Perhaps the arrival of Stephen Elop will herald a new and committed effort to break in to the North American market but the new CEO has little knowledge of and few contacts in the US carrier community.
Perhaps we'll learn a bit more about Mr. Elip's plans at Nokia World this week in London. Sacked CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo is still advertised as being the top-of-the-bill speaker at the event but everyone will be amazed if he does actually turn up and put in appearance.
At last Friday's hastily -arranged Helsinki press conference when the change of helmsman was announced, the media was frustrated by both the departing CEO's reluctance or inability to talk in detail about and answer questions on the very subject that the press had been summoned to hear and they were also nonplusssed by his sucessor's determination to keep mum about things as well.
Asked about his plans for Nokia all Stephen Elop would say was "The challenges and answers are well understood here within the walls of Nokia." Many analysts, observers, reporters and investors would venture to disagree. And if Nokia won't provide the necessary details, speculation and gossip will continue. And that's no way to run a whelk stall.
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