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.
There were two important pieces of Nokia news of interest to mobile platform developer partners leaked today. First, Nokia’s MeeGo platform, designed to replace Symbian, will likely be killed before ever reaching the market. Second, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop purportedly sent a 1,300 word memo to all Nokia employees that includes key sections such as: “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning”; and “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”
This dovetails with what we predicted in a November 2010 report, “The Feeding Frenzy Over The Mobile Developer Channel,” in that it would not be the quality of the underlying platform software (Nokia has remained strong there), but the ease of development, viability of the platform, size of the market, and availability of distribution channels that would settle the mobile platform battle. In all of these factors, Nokia has been steadily falling behind its competitors, led by Apple (iOS), Google (Android), and Microsoft (Windows Phone).
Nokia just published its fourth-quarter and annual results for 2010. I am not going to focus on the overall announcements and what they mean for Nokia’s device business in particular, but Nokia’s update on the Ovi Store is quite interesting.
Here are some of the key takeaways from a data perspective:
4 million-plus daily downloads on the Ovi Store.This is an increase of 200% from the 2 million daily downloads statistic shared at Nokia World in mid-September. If momentum continued and we assumed an average of 5 million-plus daily downloads throughout 2011, this would represent close to 2 billion downloads for 2011 alone. That’s not bad considering that Apple just announced 10 billion cumulative downloads since the launch of the Apple App Store in July 2008.
Good performance in BRIC and emerging countries.Seven of the top 10 most active countries are in the BRIC region or are emerging countries. These include: China, where Nokia claims to be the No. 1 store with 65% share (based on independent research); India; Indonesia; Russia, which sees more than 1 million downloads per week; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, with 1.6 million downloads per week; and Vietnam. One should not forget that growth and volumes will increasingly come from these regions. As a result, developers may increasingly be open to Nokia’s pitch that it offers local reach and global scale. One of the main advantages of the Ovi Store is its ability to provide operator billing (currently available in 32 markets), which makes a lot of sense in unbanked or underbanked countries where credit card penetration is low. Interestingly, 27% of the current downloads come from low-end devices (e.g, Nokia’s S40 proprietary platform) — meaning that apps are not just for “smartphones.”
Because of poor execution in 2009, the industry consensus — particularly in the US, where Nokia has a small footprint — was that Nokia was not in a position to catch up with the Apple App Store or Android Market. Reports of the Ovi Store’s death were greatly exaggerated: Nokia simply cannot afford to fail. On the contrary, it is now catching up, particularly in emerging countries, where Nokia clearly differentiates thanks to its unique local presence and relationships with operators (mobile billing is currently supported in around 30 countries).
Nokia just issued a press release this morning insisting that Ovi Store downloads are now reaching 2.3 million per day for a total installed base of 140 million active users. Bear in mind that a user is considered active on a six-month period and that this figure includes multiple Ovi experiences, including the 17 million Ovi mail and chat users as well as users of Ovi Maps, Ovi music, and Ovi life tools.
That's an increase versus last May (1.7 million) and versus the data that was announced at Nokia World two weeks ago (2 million). More interestingly, 200,000 people are signing up daily to Ovi. That's a significant trend.
I am attending Nokia World in London. For those of you not familiar with this event, that’s usually the conference where Nokia shares its vision and strategy, announces new products and services, and demonstrates its latest innovation. This is also an interesting opportunity to hear thought leaders share their vision of the mobile industry (this year, Sir Tim Berners-Lee). See the agenda here.
The 2010 edition is already unique in Nokia’s history due to the recent appointment of Stephen Elop as the new CEO and yesterday’s resignation of Anssi Vanjoki, currently EVP of Nokia's Mobile Solutions unit. Needless to say there is lots of speculation about Nokia’s future. Let me wrap up some thoughts:
It’s precisely all about organizational and cultural issues. No one should be surprised to see other departures as well as the arrival of new executives close to the newly appointed CEO. Nokia’s real challenge is to make sure these changes are implemented quickly enough -- without totally disrupting existing processes -- to keep pace with innovation. The simple fact that Nokia appointed a non-Finnish CEO, coming from the US and from Microsoft and the software industry, is another acknowledgment that Silicon Valley has become the new mobile innovation hub. Nokia’s cultural heritage is precisely to constantly reinvent itself. Tectonic shifts are shaking up the traditional mobile ecosystem, and Nokia needs to be much more agile to compete with the likes of Google and Apple.