At Nokia World, most of the media attention will focus on new device announcements, but just as crucial are the forward looking strategy announcements. This will be particularly true for Nokia World 2011. The first Nokia Windows Phone devices are expected to be announced, but it's where we'll also hear more about Nokia's 'three pillar' strategy.
After a difficult few years, Nokia will be looking to show its investors and the mobile industry as a whole that its new strategy is on track to deliver in 2012 and beyond. That's why Nokia World 2011 is set to be one of the most important events for the company in recent memory.
Stephen Elop, Chief Executive Officer
Stephen Elop did put in a brief appearance at Nokia World 2010 (before he officially he started his job), but the 2011 event will be his first full attendance at Nokia's premier event of the year. It will also be the first Nokia event that Elop can really put his stamp on and the way the event plays out and how much we see of the 'new' Nokia will tell us much about how the company is handling its current strategy transition.
Elop has been the driving force behind the switch to Windows Phones as Nokia's primary smartphone platform, and the high profile Windows Phone announcement will almost certainly come during his keynote. We can expect to hear more details on how Microsoft and Nokia are working well together and a rough outline of what to expect from the two companies in 2012.
We can also expect to hear about the 'new' Nokia. How the company has become flatter, with direct lines of responsibility, and how the company is moving faster than it ever has before.
Symbian Smartphones and Series 40 Mobile Phones are sure to get a mention too, along with Nokia's ambitions in the location space. Stephen Elop will give us the big picture, but he's likely to hand over to his two device lieutenants, Jo Harlow and Mary McDowell, for the in-depth device details.
While it will be too early to form any judgements on the strategy changes Elop has instigated at Nokia, everyone will be drawing their own conclusions about his first year as Nokia's CEO. To what extent it is judged a success or failure will very much depend on what happens at Nokia World. And that judgement will form the largest part of an informed view for Nokia's prospects in 2012.
As head of the Smart Devices at Nokia, Jo Harlow has, after Stephen Elop, the second most difficult job at Nokia. There's enormous pressure to deliver Nokia Windows Phone devices as quickly as possible, but at the same time to bake in Nokia differentiation. And, of course, getting the remaining Symbian devices and software updates out on time isn't easier either, as visibly demonstrated by Nokia's track record. However, Nokia World should be a chance for Harlow and her teams to show off what they've been working on.
All the signs indicate that Nokia's first Windows Phone devices are still on track for 2011 and the Nokia World event is the most likely venue for their announcement. Jo Harlow hinted, in an interview with Forbes earlier this year, that the first batch of devices would be a "small portfolio", suggesting multiple devices are on the way. One of these is Sea ray (similar design to N9, but with three buttons along the bottom and a camera capture button on the side), the other could be a QWERTY device along the lines of the N97 mini or N950.
A new set of Symbian devices, first mentioned in February on the Sunday before MWC, are also likely to be unveiled, a trio of mid-tier devices is the most probable scenario. They'll be running on a new hardware platform with "1 Ghz processors and faster graphics". It might be tempting to see this as Symbian's last gasp, but it is worth noting that Nokia recently announced that it would bring 10 new Symbian-based smartphones to the market over the next 12 months. Along with the new devices there will be a new software update, Symbian Belle. This is set to deliver a new UI to all the Symbian^3/Anna devices, which Nokia hopes will give the platform and its devices a sharper competitive edge.
Nokia's achievement and failures in the mobile phone space don't always get the attention they deserve. This is, perhaps, understandable given that smartphones have the advantage of being the high end device, but they have also, for the last five years, been driving the majority of profits across the mobile device industry. Nonetheless, mobile phones remain a huge market segment by device volume and have been the key to Nokia's success in emerging markets. Despite the Q2 2011 fall from the top spot in smartphones, Nokia remains the biggest manufacturer of mobile phones by some distance.
At Nokia World, Mary McDowell, who heads Nokia's Mobile Phone Unit, will likely announce additional devices (more dual SIM products, additional touch and type devices), but the key underlying message will be the ability to "connect the next billion", with particular attention paid to opportunities for service providers and developers.
The importance of Series 40 and 'mobile phone' goes beyond serving emerging markets. It's been widely assumed that Series 40 would gradually be eroded, to be replaced by smartphones. However, one of the lessons of the first decade of the smartphone is that it is very hard to create a single platform to cover everything from the low end to the high end. This would suggest Series 40, or at least, the space it represents, will not disappear.
The next generation of Series 40 is set to become a quasi-smartphone platform (think Qt and WebKit); it will also draw on the user experience lessons learned from the Nokia N9 (Swipe UI) and there is a strong possibility that it will be built on top of a Linux core. This would means a renewal of the boundary line between phone-centric quasi-smartphones (today's mobile phones) and computing-centric smartphones (today's smartphones), rather than a subsumption of mobile phones by smartphones, is a distinct possibility. With this in mind, the most intriguing question of the next few years is whether Nokia can outperform the rest of the industry by building sustainable profits in the mobile phone segment.
Dr Michael Halbherr
Nokia's location man, Michael Halbherr, will be on hand to talk about Nokia's location strategy. Halbherr is the new head of the combined NAVTEQ and social location business, which is tasked with developing the next generation of social location products and services for consumers. It also handles NAVTEQ's traditional activities of building platform services for device manufacturers, developers and service providers.
We can expect to hear about the benefits of integrating the two units, especially around the potential for making the most of the combination of NAVTEQ's geo-databases and Nokia's consumer insight databases. However, it will also be important to reassure NAVTEQ's traditional customers and clearly state a willingness to continue to invest the necessary resources in field operations and data processing to maintain its competitive advantage over Google.
We may get our first glimpse of Nokia Maps running on a Windows Phone device, but the formal release is not expected to happen until early 2012. Nokia Maps on Series 40 should reach more devices and, as has become traditional at Nokia World, there should be an(other) updated version of the Symbian Maps client.
As Vice President of Product Marketing, Ilari Nurmi is responsible for product marketing and the 'go to market' execution of Nokia's smartphone strategy. Building devices is one thing, but marketing and getting them into the market is another. The switch to Windows Phone offers a unqiue opportunity for Nokia to reboot its smartphone image among high end users and early adopters.
Getting Windows Phone devices launched in Nokia's key markets and judging the complimentary role of Symbian devices (and the Nokia N9) in each of those markets will be a very difficult balancing act. Similarly getting a clearly defined and well understood message out through traditional advertising, social media and other communication activities will also be important. At Nokia World we can expect to hear more about both of these areas.
Incidentally, Illari Nurmi is the only Finn amongst the five key speakers. This stands in contrast to previous years and is a good demonstration of the scale of the leadership changes that Nokia has undergone in the last twelve months.
Bianca Juti, Samuli Hänninen, Charmaine Eggberry and Marco Argenti
Also listed on the Nokia World event page are a number of other speakers including:
Bianca Juti, who heads product marketing for Nokia Mobile Phones, will look to reinforce the Nokia message of bridging the digital divide and connecting the next billion. They don't get the same attention as smartphones, but there's no doubt that mobile phones are one of the biggest agents for social change and mobility in emerging markets.
Samuli Hänninen, who heads the Global Product Proposition team at Nokia and is responsible for defining and marketing Nokia's services efforts across Nokia Maps, Nokia Store and more. Despite the disappearance of the Ovi brand, Nokia still has very substantial resources and investments in services. Maps, Store and Music are the survivors of the Ovi strategy and remain key offerings on all Nokia products.
Charmaine Eggberry heads Marketplace Activation, which consists of activities relating to strategic planning and activation, regional marketing and regional communication. As at previous Nokia events, we will hear more about the importance of Nokia being both a global and a local company. Strategic planning goes far beyond device creation; Nokia has always worked closely with operators and that will undoubtedly continue.
Marco Argenti, as SVP Developer and Marketplace, is globally responsible for the support and growth of Nokia's developer community, including guiding the strategy, delivery and support of Nokia's on-device marketplace. Stephen Elop will mention developers in his keynote, but there'll be a number of follow up speakers. The event includes a dedicated developer stream on day two. If it hasn't already happened, Nokia World will see the renaming of Ovi Store to Nokia Store. We should also see the unveiling of the Nokia branded store on its Windows Phone devices (as distinct from the generic Windows Phone Marketplace).
At the time of writing there are 86 days to go until Nokia World opens on October 26th in London.
The All About team will be there to cover all the big news announcements and give you a flavour of this key Nokia event. Let the countdown and the speculation begin!
Rafe Blandford, 31 July 2011