Nokia is clearly in a very bad position right now. It has screwed up badly in the last couple of years, and is completely behind the curve. Symbian used to be the leader in smartphones, but now it has just been relegated to the sidelines by Android, iOS and surprisingly, even Windows Phone 7.
If there is any other company which is doing as badly as Nokia, it’s Research in Motion. Even they used to lead the U.S. smartphone market, but now their flagship Blackberry devices have been completely trounced by iOS and Android.
Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, couldn’t have been more right when he said that Nokia was on a burning platform. However, I don’t quite agree with what his proposed solution to the problem was: Windows Phone 7.
Nokia effectively ditched Symbian and officially adopted Windows Phone 7 as its primary OS months ago. It will likely launch a couple of Windows Phone 7 devices before the end of 2011.
Even so, with HTC, Samsung and LG already in the game, I doubt that the Windows Phone 7 deal will save Nokia.
Here’s my take on what Nokia should do to avoid almost certain death.
Launch Devices on Multiple Platforms
As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Especially when it’s Microsoft’s.
Nokia may think that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 may be the dominant smartphone in the future, but no one knows how it might play out. It could turn out that Android may remain the most popular smartphone platform for a long time.
Instead of trying to predict which platform will be the leading one in the future, Nokia should try to do what it does best – hardware.
Nokia’s expertise lies in building quality, inexpensive smartphones which offer excellent value for money. It has some of the best production facilities and distribution network worldwide.
If I were Nokia, I would continue to build Symbian, as well as MeeGo smartphones (it seems to have received some great reviews). Additionally, I would also ship smartphones powered by both Windows Phone 7 and Android.
That way, Nokia’s future wouldn’t remain tied to any particular platform.
Three Devices Per Platform
Nokia currently has over 20 different smartphones powered by the Symbian OS, and even more feature phones powered by S40. Many of them hardly differ at all. If you want to buy an iPhone, you just go ahead an buy an iPhone.
However, if you want to buy a Nokia device, you just end up getting confused and then buy a phone which you are not sure you really like. Too many choices can really suck.
Nokia should develop smartphones powered by these four platforms – Android, Windows Phone 7, Symbian and MeeGo, but only 2 or 3 devices for each platform.
The budget smartphone should be an inexpensive, budget device priced around $200-$300 without contract. It could have a 3.5 inch capacitive LCD display, a 2.0 MP or 3.2 MP camera and 4 GB of storage. But it should have at least 512 MB RAM and a 1 GHz processor.
The mid-range smartphone should be priced at around $400-$500. It should come with a 4 inch capacitive S-LCD display, a 5 MP camera and 8-16 GB of internal memory. This device should come with a 1.4 GHz single core processor, or a 1 GHz dual core processor, with 1 GB RAM.
This would be the best smartphone on the planet. It should be priced at around $600-$700, and come with a 4.3 inch SuperAMOLED display. It should have an 8.1 MP or 12 MP camera, and be powered by the best hardware available – 1-2 GB of RAM, coupled with a something like the Nvidia Kal-El chip – a quad core processor. This should offer 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage.
With these three devices on each platform, Nokia should be in a position to dominate the smartphone market.
The Killer Stroke
Nokia should use only the stock version of Android, so that it can push out updates faster than the other manufacturers. It seems that Nokia plans to customize Windows Phone 7; it should scrap those plans.
And finally, here’s the killer stroke:
Nokia should produce only three devices, based on the specifications I outlined above, for all the four platforms.
It should allow users to buy a device, and then allow them to choose whichever OS they want to install on it. All the three devices are powerful enough to run any of the 4 operating systems easily.
This way, anyone looking to buy a smartphone can buy a Nokia device without having to choose between platforms – he can just install whichever OS he wants. Nokia could also provide a dual booting option if it wanted.
This will have another advantage: Nokia will have to produce only three devices. This will alllow it to produce them at a much lower cost, with many components used in all of them. It could potentially be able to price them lower than any of its competitors.
Additionally, Nokia should refresh its new product line only once an year, like Apple. This way, when a consumer buys a Nokia phone, he will be assured that his phone won’t become outdated in a month.
With this product strategy, I believe Nokia could regain the top position in the smartphone market. If anyone would want to buy a phone, he would just have to choose between the Nokia phone, or the iPhone. With 4 OS options on the former, I bet most would choose the Nokia phone.
I haven’t really thought this through, but I think this would be the best strategy for Nokia. What do you think? Comments, please.