Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nokia: Another Mobile Lesson For Companies - Don't Be Arrogant and Be Mindful of Unassuming Threats

When the iPhone came out on the scene, I didn't get wild about it until I saw the smooth pinching demo by Steve Jobs.  I knew at the time that the iPhone would be a work in progress.  That the iPhone 2G was a beta device with much much greater things to come from Apple.

But what was amazing to me was the quick dismissal from incumbent players like Palm, RIM, Microsoft, and Nokia.  Each had something unkind to say about Apple's entry into the phone market.  Even Motorola, once an Apple partner in the ROKR phone, said the iPhone would not go anywhere.

All I can say is that had these guys grew up watching anime like I did, they would know that the world was ready for a device that could do everything we can on a laptop.  The Palm and the Treo at the time was among the most enticing device for me.  I even got a wireless modem running on GPRS.  It was awesome.

Today, Nokia offers another lesson.  The thing is that Nokia, despite its "beleaguered state" doesn't seem to think it's in trouble.  And here's the lesson for anyone running a business or is involved in the mobile struggle now, don't assume that just because you're at the top that you'll stay there.

I think that was the main concern for Steve Jobs.  He helped usher in a music revolution and now a mobile revolution.  He redefined digital distribution with Apple.  And what is next now that Tim Cook has drove Apple to the height of the corporate and mobile world?  Certainly, Tim Cook's Apple would not be considered to be arrogant at all.  His personality just doesn't seem to suggest it.

Meanwhile, bashing from rivals continue from time to time.  The most recent is Samsung's mock protest in front of an Australian Apple store.

The key for Samsung (forget the rest of the Android market) is that it relies on Google's Android.  Innovation will only occur as fast as Google is.  Hardware will be on par with everyone else but other designs could suffer.  The Galaxy Note is a pretty good take and there is a huge market for it.  So, Samsung will be fine for a while.

Nokia is in a lot of trouble and I can't decide if it's better or worse than RIM's situation.  At least for RIM, it's got a corporate market that it can draw from at least for a while.  Nokia's debt was downgraded twice last week (Wired).  In the Wired post, it made a very distinct difference between Nokia and Samsung.  At the time, Samsung had the Bada OS, which it continues to work on and improve, but it was willing to turn on a dime and embrace Android.  Bada was not going anywhere (still probably won't) and it had more to gain from the Google-backed brand.

Nokia and RIM had their own successful platform and did not feel Apple could possible gain any kind of meaningful foothold in the mobile market.  The difference between someone like Apple and someone like Microsoft is that Apple had the feel of a startup.  And the difference between Apple and a regular startup is Apple has tens of billions in the bank.  And of course, Apple had Steve Jobs.

Today's Apple will no doubt continue to build on the momentum Steve created and it'll be up to Tim to make sure Apple continues on that path or even take a risk and go on a different path.  What Apple cannot afford to do is to believe that no one can out-innovate it or that the Apple brand cannot be tarnished in any way.

As for Nokia, I don't think it's too late.  Luckily, I think it picked the right partner with Microsoft.  And Nokia remains a strong global brand, much more than RIM.  I really like to see Nokia success with Windows.

As a mobile fan, we don't want this to turn into another two-horse race, Apple and Samsung.

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