Why Nokia Knows One Million 5800s is a Strategic Press Release

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Did you see Nokia's recent press release on the shipping of one million 5800 handsets? Does anything strike you as unusual about this? Me too. Why are Nokia deciding to shout about this now, when other devices rarely get the look at me treatment? Could it be that the Finns are starting to do some psychosocial marketing? Read on while I explain.

Let's not nit-pick about shipping, sold, stock, etc. This is a big number, and coming on top of the announcement at the end of last year of half a million 5800's out in the wild, it shows that Nokia have a hit on their hands.

More than that, Nokia are telling us that they have a hit on their hands.

That's probably more important. As the smartphone market goes through a difficult 2009, the choice of handset made by customers and networks is (as always) going to be key. It is human nature to be seen with a popular or cool device. In the world of smartphones, where so much is discussed online, it might not be the phone that has the biggest sales that gets the attention, but the phone that gets all the buzz.

Nokia 5800 Retail

So Nokia deciding to shout about the success of their first touch-based S60 device shows an understanding of this part of human psyche – Steve and I can't recall a press release declaring the sales figures of any other S60 device (outside of quarterly sales calls), and it ties in with the increased buzz that was generated at the launch of the N97 compared to previous device launches.

It's not just the end users that need to be convinced there is a hit phone – the networks want to carry the devices that people want, so if they are getting a lot of prospective customers phoning and asking for the 5800, then they are more likely to consider taking on the Finnish phone.

Then there are the developers. No matter what you might think about the iPhone, you cannot help but notice that the App Store is a crown jewel in that ecosystem. With constant news coming out of Cupertino on the number of apps available, the amount of money trading hands, and a stream of success stories online, the perception to developers is that the iPhone is the only game in town if you want to make money. In the cold light of day, I'm sure there are success stories on every platform, but we're talking about a emotional response here, and right now Apple is winning the hearts and minds of vital groups of people around the world.

Just because you might have the best technological solution to a problem, that doesn't necessarily mean you win the mainstream battle (ask Betamax). Nokia's S60 platform may have more raw capabilities than others, but like any consumer electronics company it is going to need to fight to claim and retain pole position.

If you're gonna bring a knife to a gunfight, you'll lose. Doesn't matter if it's an honourable loss, you're still not number one.

Reading the recent press releases, Nokia just unlocked their armoury.

-- Ewan Spence, Jan 2009.