Yesterday TelecomTV's lead story characterised Nokia's decision to return to the fray in the US with its Windows-powered Lumia phone as either very brave or an act of desperation. But that was Tuesday, today is Wednesday and with the dawn comes evidence that the Finnish company is now drifting so far into the realms of fantasy as to be delusional. Martyn Warwick reports.
Niels Munksgaard, the head of Portfolio, Product Marketing and Sales at Nokia Entertainment Global, in an exclusive interview with the British electronics review website Pocket-lint, says that "Youth are pretty much fed up with iPhones. Everyone has the iPhone", while countless "others are not happy with the complexity of Android and the lack of security."
The claims are unsupported by any statistics or analysis but, nonetheless, Mr. Munksgaard says they are the reasons why "the youth that wants to be on the cutting edge and try something new are turning to the Windows phone platform.” And, of course, in case you weren't aware of it, Windows powers the Nokia Lumia.
However Niels Munksgaard does allow reality to intrude into his reverie sufficiently to be able to admit that, “The marketplace is extremely crowded. I refer to it as the sea of sameness." Quite.
The executive then lets his analytical acumen completely off the leash and says, "When you walk up to a retail shelf at Phones4U and see the number of black mono-blocks sitting on the shelf, it is very confusing to the consumer. We want to deliver services and phones that are different.”
Yes, we know. Every handset manufacturer on the face of the planet chants the same old tired and trite mantra. We have heard it all before - ad nauseam.
So what will Nokia do that is so very different this time around? Well, Mr. Munksgaard is pinning his hopes and the company's shirt to apps and services such as Nokia Mix Radio. He says "With Nokia Mix Radio we are really back in the game" and that's because streaming radio is the wave of the future - apparently. What's more, with a Lumia handset, Nokia Mix Radio "works out of the box. It's simple. It's free."
Nokia Lumia users won’t have to sign-up to anything or pay any subscription fees and will be able to choose playlists from various "genres" including hip-hop, dance, rock, and "sub-genres of each". Whilst another option will permit users to key-in the names of two "artists" and have a playlist created merging the two tastes! OK, mine are Tracey Emin and Leonardo da Vinci. Let battle commence.
Mr. Munksgaard is enthusiastic - that's his job, but making sweeping statements about "yoof" being sick and tired of the iPhone and baffled by the complexities of the Android OS, without adducing any evidence to support his claim, is to make himself and his company a hostage to fortune.
And even if his claim does have a basis in reality, who or what is to say that the disaffected kids will suddenly turn to Nokia to get their next fix of trendiness?
The release a Windows-based phone or two that come with a music service is all very well but on its own it won't be enough to put a dent in RIM's market share (let alone AT&T and Verizon) and it certainly won't conquer the US market.
Last night I had a chat with my grandson, a trendy youth if ever there was one. He turned 14 a couple of weeks ago and asked for a new mobile for his birthday. He wanted (and got) a BlackBerry, the erstwhile toy of the twenty-something yuppie. Now though it's teenagers who are turning to the RIM kit in ever increasing numbers. Why? Well it's not for music - they have MP3 players for that. No, it's for the qwerty keyboard and BBM, the SMS service that it free for and between BlackBerry users. They can message their mates anytime, anywhere, for nothing. And that's what they do.
I asked him about Android-based devices and he told me they are "OK and don't cost a lot but they are a bit fiddly."
That's purely anecdotal stuff or course but the website mashable.com is currently running a more representative online poll to determine if the iPhone is losing popular appeal or not. When I looked at the results earlier this morning they were running like this: 59.4 per cent of respondents think the iPhone "remains the coolest, most user-friendly phone you can buy." However, 21.45 per cent say "everyone now has an iPhone and other brands have better features" and 16.41 per cent say they "still like it [the iPhone] but add that 'their eyes are wandering' towards other phones. Meanwhile 2.75 per cent of respondents claim they have "never heard of the iPhone".
And here's something from a Neilson study released on Monday: "Consistent with US kids’ 2010 wish-lists, the Apple iPad is the most desired consumer electronic among kids ages 6 -12 for the winter holiday 2011. In fact, the iPad increases its stronghold, with nearly half (44 per cent) of kids expressing interest in the product, up from 31 per cent in 2010. Two other popular Apple devices — iPod Touch (30 per cent) and iPhone (27 per cent) — round out kids’ top three, with computers and other tablet brands each appealing to a quarter of younger consumers.
And finally, this from the great Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Nokia, take note and, if you are serious about the US market, get some '4G LTE devices into the States before it's too late.
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