Nokia’s latest attempt to fight back against the combined forces of Google’s Android and iOS are finally out in the open. Stephen Elop has revealed “a new season” at Nokia, with the unveiling of the stunning, MeeGo-packing N9 and plans to out Symbian Anna on the N8, C7, E7 and C6-00 over the next two months.
But while Windows Phone got a brief mention during Elop’s keynote at the Nokia Connection conference in Singapore, his insistence on talking-up Symbian is nothing short of mystifying. The operating system which led the CEO to believe that his company was “standing on a burning platform” has been reborn thanks to the Anna overhaul. Smarter, sleeker and more ingrained with social networking nous, it goes some way to addressing major concerns about an OS never really built for touchscreen smartphones.
And while the upgrade, which rolls out next month, is great for existing owners, Elop’s announcement that Nokia will release ten new Symbian phones in the next year seems bizarre. He even said that a “war of ecosystems” was now raging and that Windows Phone would help Nokia get to the top of the pile.
But surely it can only do that if it is front and centre, rather than vying for attention with Symbian devices which will doubtless fall short of the high expectations smartphone consumers now demand.
It seems also that old habits die hard when it comes to formulating release dates. Elop said that he had “increased confidence” that a Nokia Windows Phone would be out this year. Confidence is one thing, but if Nokia wants to at least be seen to be trying to compete with the forthcoming iPhone 4S and the Google Nexus 3, it’s an absolute necessity that this device is released in 2011 and not pushed back any further.
To make it more of a must-have, Nokia could also do with slimming its Symbian portfolio right down. Surely it won’t shift any phones on the old OS if Nokia Windows Phones are released every few months as Jo Harlow claimed back in May.
The good news is that the newly-announced MeeGo N9 shows that Nokia is at last beginning to learn that a marriage between software and hardware is vital for success. First impressions suggest this is a stunningly integrated device and one which will do well among early adopters and fans. But Nok’s failure to give a firm release date means this will probably got lost among the hype surrounding its new Windows Phones.
Why not release the phone in a matter of weeks rather than “later this year"? The potential for another N8-style debacle is huge. Nokia does appear to be learning. But for every N9, there’s another push to make sure Symbian makes money. It’s high time Espoo gave up on new Symbian phones and pushed hard to create a series of Windows Phones worth getting on board with. It owes itself nothing less.