updated 08:35 am EST, Wed December 8, 2010
Nokia at LeWeb both praises, trashes Apple iPhone
Nokia Design Strategy Director Marko Ahtisaari had mixed views of Apple's work at his speech at the LeWeb conference in Paris on Wednesday. While discussing the company's plans for MeeGo phones in 2011, he produced rare compliments and said the iPhone interface was "beautifully elegant" and easy to learn. At the same, however, he saw Apple as unfairly creating a perception that Nokia was losing out and alluded to the stereotype of Steve Jobs' "reality distortion field," stressing that Nokia's reach was much wider.
"There is this Cupertino distortion field," he said. "We compete with all phones all over the world."
Ahtisaari's statements contradict current performance. With occasional exceptions, Nokia has been losing both overall and smartphone market share since the iPhone shipped in 2007 and was exacerbated when Android began gaining traction in 2009. Apple only had a modest effect at first, but even as recently as the summer of 2009 it was assuming the iPhone would fail rather than attempting to change its strategy. The N97 Nokia released at the same time was widely considered a flop given its ambitions and led to a major rethinking that resulted in the much faster, multi-touch N8 using Symbian^3 as well as the move to MeeGo.
The executive acknowledged that Nokia needed to "somehow regain the imagination" but dismissed rumors that it might jump to Android, saying Nokia couldn't "add value" and stand out with Google's OS.
Instead, Nokia would take a small cue from Microsoft and try to shift away from constantly staring at phones. Smartphones today are "immersive, they require our full attention," he said. Rather than strictly follow Microsoft's approach, though, the goal with MeeGo was to focus on "one-handed use" where a device didn't need full attention.
He pointed to techniques Nokia was implementing today as signs of its future direction, noting that adaptive behavior tied to sensors could be the future. Ovi Maps did this today by tracking collective map data to determine where heavy traffic might be and to determine when mapping data was outdated as drivers took detours. GPS could be used in the future to determine when a party was going on, Ahtisaari said, by noting if a large number of users are in a small area.
Notifications and updates might also be improved in the future, he added, without giving details.