An interview with Pasi Niemi, wireless industry expert who resides in Finland. Finland, by the way, is home to Nokia, the world’s largest maker of mobile handsets.
Nokia’s in a unique position as the leading provider of smartphone handsets worldwide. And not by a slim margin. Nokia has more than both iPhone and BlackBerry, combined. This begs the question: Is it a sound business strategy to adapt successful iPhone Apps to Nokia smartphones? Meet Pasi Niemi, an accomplished wireless industry expert and Senior VP of Strategy and Business Development for Anite Finland, Ltd.
Here are excerpts from our interview together:
Tim: Which one smartphone mobile device platform (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia, etc) do you think has the most potential in Finland? Worldwide?
Pasi: Nokia in Finland. Worldwide, I would still believe that Nokia platform is most potential due to the huge volume of handsets that they have out there. If (and when) Nokia gets their act together with OVI (and it is already working nicely with N97) I anticipate it will have lots more users than Apple store.
Tim: What can you tell me about the apps sold at the Nokia OVI Store and the potential for adapting successful iPhone apps to work on Nokia devices?
Pasi: Right now, there are not a whole lot of apps available on the Nokia OVI Store yet. There’s an opportunity take the most popular iPhone App Store Apps and adapt them for Nokia. In Q4 2008, Nokia’s claimed 40.8% market share on the smartphone market with 15.6 million units. RIM held share of 19.5% (7.4 million units) and Apple came in third place with 10.7% (4.1 million units). If you look at the numbers and drive a very simple analogy…an application that has been successful on Apple could conceivably sell four times that amount on Nokia.
Tim: In your opinion, with which Nokia devices must the adapted app be compatible?
Pasi: The adapted apps should be put to two different categories. First, the ones that require touch operation…these would be then adapted to Symbian touch (N97, 5800Xpress and any future models). Secondly, the apps that would not require touch operation, but would instead be operated by directional buttons or menu selections…these I would adapt to Symbian v3 (N85, N95, N96, E72, etc.).
Tim: There’s been some speculation about the future of Symbian, the Nokia operating system. Do you think Nokia is headed for Open Source, perhaps Android?
Pasi: Nokia is definitively heading for open source. In fact, they are taking Symbian to open source also. They have had Linux based OS’s in their web devices such as the N800, however, I don’t believe that they would go with Android. If they go with a Linux based OS, then my guess is that they will have their own flavor of it.
Tim: What would be timing/approach to avoid adapting successful iPhone apps to an OS that is on its way out?
Pasi: I would not be worried about the timing of this…or that Symbian would be disappearing. Nokia is still very committed to Symbian and even if they would decide today that they would use another OS in their phones it would take 6 to 9 months for the new phones to come out and another 12-24 months before the existing Symbian customers would have swapped from their old phones to new ones.
Tim: What mobile technology advances and trends do you see forthcoming?
Pasi: When data speeds are sufficient, then the storage/applications can be hosted somewhere else. This creates big potential for new applications that require more storage and processing power than the handsets can handle. Voice control, 3d gaming, location based services and the RFID chip will each have a significant impact as well.
Tim: What benefits will an embedded RFID chip bring?
Pasi: RFID chip could bring bunch of benefits…using mobile for garage door opening, to remember your car settings when you enter into the car, payment at the gas pump, etc. DoCoMo is one operator that is pushing this the most and they have a variety of applications that they have trialed with it. (RFID chips are known as IC tags in Japan)
Tim: You knew I was going to ask…which mobile device do you use?
Pasi: Nokia N97
Tim: In your opinion, how well has the iPhone been received in Finland?
Pasi: Fairly well…but not a huge hit. People in Finland are still quite cautious on long-term contracts and the iPhone has been sold with 2 year contract.
I look forward to more conversations with Pasi, a wealth of mobile know-how.
As a sidebar, here are a few opinions and factors that affect the iPhone’s adoption in Finland:
- TeliaSonera is currently the only mobile carrier for iPhone.1
- Ease of Apps shopping with the iPhone is considerably better than on the Nokia Ovi Store.1
- Nokia’s top-of-the-line smartphones will be Linux-powered shortly in the future and, in the long run, open mobile platforms will win.2
- iPhone was released to Finland in July 2008, 12 months after the U.S. release.
Tim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.
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