I attended this year’s Nokia World in Abu Dhabi on October 22 and 23 — perhaps the last one that Nokia will host to showcase its devices (Microsoft wants to acquire Nokia’s device and services business). And it seems that Nokia saved its best for last. The company announced its entry into the loosely-defined phablet category (smart devices with diagonal screen size of more than 5 inches but less than 7 inches) with two devices: a top-of-the-line flagship device, the Lumia 1520, and a more affordable version, the Lumia 1320. It also announced its first tablet, the Lumia 2520. It also launched three new Asha devices: Asha 500, Asha 502, and Asha 503. However, Nokia has neither announced the release date for its new devices nor identified which operators will carry them.
The event tag line was “Innovation Reinvented,” and Nokia did demonstrate many innovations, especially around imaging software. It launched new apps like the Nokia Camera, which combines Smart Camera and Pro Camera apps; Refocus, which adds Lytro-like variable depth of field; Storyteller, which integrates photos and videos onto HERE maps; and Beamer, which shares Lumia’s screen in real time over Wi-Fi or cellular networks.
Eventually, Microsoft announced its decision to acquire Nokia's devices and services unit for € 5,4 billion.
After all these years of speculation, now was the time to invest. Indeed, despite the collapse of the Nokia handset empire, Nokia still has numerous assets: a wide portfolio of patents, Nokia’s product engineering and global capabilities in manufacturing, marketing, and distributing mobile phones. Microsoft is thus not only acquiring the Lumia brand but also the Asha one – bearing in mind Nokia still sold close to 54 million devices in Q2 2013.
Nokia will now focus on its three core technologies: the network infrastructure with NSN, its maps and location-based service ecosystem with HERE, and Advanced Technologies. There were early signs of the new approach when, a year ago, Nokia started to build brand equity beyond mobile phones with HERE (see my take on this blog at that time) but also more recently when Nokia announced its decision to acquire Siemens’ take to fully own NSN. Microsoft will pay Nokia a four-year license of the HERE services, bringing some regular revenues to the now much smaller company.
To avoid parts of the company to be acquired by some Far East Asian manufacturers and due to the diminishing investments from other Windows Phone licensees, Microsoft had to adopt a vertically integrated strategy. They are indeed the best placed to generate synergies with Nokia following the more than two years agreement. And as All Things Digital puts it, Stephen Elop is now the Microsoft CEO candidate to beat.
I continue to believe that most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Pairing NFC accessories and reading NFC smart tags will open up new opportunities. NFC will be a key technology for interacting with the world around you — and it is time to test it, as highlighted in this recent piece of research written by my colleague Anthony Mullen. There is an ongoing debate about bar codes’ potential replacement by NFC; I think both technologies serve different objectives and have different advantages but will continue to co-exist. Radio and optical technologies are converging, as highlighted by French startup Mobilead, which does a fantastic job of delivering a great branded experience mixing QR codes and NFC tags.
Around 60,000 global movers and shakers of all things mobile once again descended upon Barcelona to attend the leading annual mobility event, the Mobile World Congress (MWC). This year’s main themes centered on metadata analytics, the customer experience, and over-the top business models:
The big data opportunity fueled the fantasies of almost all MWC attendees. In the case of telcos, data analytics is seen as the driver for improving the customer experience and developing new markets. Telcos talked a lot about the opportunities of analysing user behavior and turning user data into the new operator currency. The context- and location-aware nature of mobile solutions makes the big data opportunity particularly attractive. However, despite the talk, there were practically no case studies of operators that have succeeded in monetizing data on a large scale. Progress regarding data monetization is slowed down by a lack of clear business models, but also by an OSS/BSS infrastructure that does not support real-time or near real-time analytics. Moreover, privacy concerns also act as a drag on the uptake of data analytics. Equipment vendors such as Nokia Siemens Networks, meanwhile, showcased their customer experience management and analytics solutions for telcos. The solution combines analytics and the actions that operators must take to correct or improve the end user experience, such as a level one call handler pushing the correct settings to a phone or a marketing manager setting up a marketing campaign.
This was possibly the most important Nokia World event ever. Nokia had to demonstrate that it can deliver against its plans. In February 2011, Nokia communicated its intention to team up with Microsoft to develop its new platform and to “entrust” its Symbian operating system to accenture. In total 3,000 visitors from 70 countries attended Nokia World 2011 in London to hear and see what the “new Nokia” looks like.
In essence it was clear what Nokia World 2011 would be all about before the actual event had even started. Nokia had to produce a device that can take on the iPhone and the Galaxy. At the event Nokia announced the launch of the first “real Windows phone” in the form of the Lumia 800. The result is an impressive device that certainly secured Nokia a seat on the table of the tripartite of leading smartphones platforms.