updated 12:10 pm EDT, Fri April 3, 2009
Nokia Leap to Catch iPhone
Nokia's new markets executive VP Anssi Vankoji in an interview at the Web 2.0 Expo provided a surprise statement that his company's phones are lagging behind Apple's iPhone in software. He tells VentureBeat that while Nokia currently has technically superior hardware, the accessibility of its features and the overall ease of the use of the devices still have to take "quantum leaps" to reach Apple's current level, which relies on simple gestures and icons for control. Interface changes, along with a better app catalog with the launch of the Ovi Store in June, are considered key by Vankoji to matching Apple's expertise in mobile OS design.
The executive also notes that, while Apple may have a good core hardware design, the company's insistence on a particular form factor means it won't catch the entire market simply due to certain users preferring specific features, like hardware keyboards or clamshell designs.
"We [at Nokia] don't think the world is so simple that you just make one device for everybody," Vankoji says. "We know more about the consumers in the world than any other consumer goods company in the world because we have so many customers. We know they have different tastes and uses and so you have to offer a whole line."
Apple's insistence on controlling both the operating system and the hardware is also said to likely limit the company's long-term prospects. Although Vankoji doesn't see Apple failing, he sees a parallel to the competition between Macs and Windows PCs where the ability to use an operating system at multiple companies and on multiple devices had ultimately led to Apple claiming a minority portion of a larger market. He doesn't presume Nokia will lead but expects open platforms like Symbian to predominate.
"I don't think the world will unite on one platform," he explains. "There are several that will succeed. Our platform, Symbian, is an open platform and will make a major impact in the industry."
Nokia is commonly believed to be suffering from the impact of the iPhone, as well as newer BlackBerries. The company's smartphone market share has been steadily dropping since the iPhone's 2007 release and has seen Nokia ship fewer phones even as the smartphone business gets larger. Among the factors contributing to the drop have been a general absence of touchscreen phones and relatively weak messaging features.