Just what is Nokia up to? Four months after the N8 was proudly touted in all its glory, it appears its release date has slipped once again, with UK retailer Play.com pushing the new flagship phone back to October 8th. That’s nearly two months after it was supposed to hit shelves.
But this isn’t a simple delay. There are wider machinations at play here. MeeGo is due to land in the same month, the new OS set to take over from Symbian on Nokia’s high-end handsets and therefore rendering the N8 utterly redundant just as it gets ready to roll. But it’s the leak of the N8-replacing N9 that’s really got alarm bells ringing.
The new device is said to be coming in the first week of December. If that doesn’t undermine the N8 and the excessive hype Nokia has attempted to create around it, then what does? On paper, the N8 is a stunner. Awesome 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, feature-laden and new-look OS, an app store with great potential in the form of Ovi and a capacitive touchscreen tell you that much.
Initial previews have been cautiously optimistic, but the fact is the N9 can’t kick it alongside the Samsung Galaxy S, iPhone 4 or HTC Desire if it’s not been released. Specs on paper can only do so much and it’s a worry that more delays are afoot. Just what is up with the phone for it to be held back for so long? Delays like this don’t inspire confidence in the all-important first adopters who will be buying the phone from the get go. However, the mooted N9 is of the biggest concern. It, too, looks amazing. But why release it so soon after the N8?
It would seem Nokia has no confidence in Symbian 3, otherwise why would it be releasing a successor just two months on from its arrival. Mobile phone makers are always upgrading, but the days of trailing handsets for months on end are over.
The HTC Desire was out in the wild within weeks of its announcement at MWC 2010 in February. The Samsung Galaxy S landed quick smart once it got the official nod. Nokia’s N8 should have been out months ago. Trying to repeat the trick Apple pulled off with the original iPhone hasn’t worked. That teaser period was for a gadget that redefined the mobile phone space. The N8 might be good, but it’s not revolutionary.
The confusion here, though, points to a wider malaise at Nokia. The unresolved issue of whether Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo is staying or going as CEO and the failure to land a punch on Apple or Google while the latter pair surge up the smartphone charts show this is a company far from its best.
Fans and supporters will point to its position as smartphone top dog. But that is quickly being challenged and this is more of a cultural problem. Nokia lacks that psychological edge. Not since the N95 has it really caused a stir, instead delivering disappointing flagship phones that don’t excite those after the latest bleeding-edge technology.
The N9 may well be the Android and iPhone beater that Nokia has been waiting for. But if it lands this side of Christmas, the N8 won’t stand a chance. Espoo’s strategy is almost impossible to understand. And while it flails, Google will unleash Android 3.0 and Apple will be beavering away on yet another iPhone. The time to have a complete rethink is now.