Nokia Declares Itself a 'Software Company'

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Nokia says it is now a software company, not a phone manufacturer.

The company began as a rubber works in the 19th century and is well known for its extensive portfolio of mobile phones that cover a range of markets from ultra low-cost phones to high-end smartphones with the latest "must-have" technology.

While it continues that bent, the manufacturer has begun consolidating its phone fleet with only 22 models released in the first half of 2010 compared to roughly 35 in the latter half of 2009.

Asia Pacific head of marketing, Will Harris, said the company is "a business in transition".

"Our future is in software not hardware," " Harris told Computerworld Australia, adding that the company now believes it "monetises its software with hardware".

The software, too, is changing. The mobile giant is set to release an overhaul of the popular open-source Symbian Series 60 platform with Symbian 3 and soon Symbian 4, and is in the process of bringing the first devices with its Linux-based MeeGo operating system to market. Once completed, Nokia will only have three smartphone platforms for its entire fleet - Series 40, Symbian 4 and MeeGo - which are open for development from third parties through its Qt framework which can be deployed on all of the company's devices.

"We could effectively launch all of the devices on the same day, because they're all using the same platform," Harris said.

"We've never been able to do that before.

"The leap for us to go from the N97 to the N97 mini required a whole lot of work to get the software working on those two devices."

While Nokia acquired navigation company Navteq in order to bring further mapping expertise in-house, a major aspect of the company's focus on software is an increased interest in collaboration. Both Symbian and MeeGo are, after all, open source platforms, with the latter being a combination of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin operating systems.

Further collaboration with Microsoft, too, has seen Nokia ditch its proprietary messaging service in favour of full Exchange support, with an Office Communications Server client the most recent fruit.

It is clear, however, that the company is looking to increasingly collaborate with the community to develop better software.

"It's a good sign of Nokia as a software company, where you release software, get it out to developers and the community, and the developers can work out what's going to run on it," Harris said.

"Then you release a better, consumer edition."

The company doesn't believe in a "one size fits all" strategy when it comes to the hardware, which is why you might not see an Apple-esque strategy - one or two devices on sale at any one time - from Nokia soon.

It's revamped strategy comes at a time when the company's market share is attacked on all sides. While mobile phone shipments have risen from around 270,000 to 310,000 per quarter globally, Gartner statistics show Nokia's market share has continued to slip as more and more competitors enter the market. It controlled 35 per cent of the global mobile phone market in the first quarter of this year, with competitor Samsung close behind.

Nokia controls a majority share of 43.9 per cent of the smartphone market in Australia according to IDC statistics, but analyst, Mark Novosel, said Apple could take that position by the end of the year.

"We are much more humble about our position in the market than we were in the past," according to Harris.

"But we are hell bent on making sure we are as successful as we ever were."

This story, "Nokia Declares Itself a 'Software Company'" was originally published by Computerworld Australia.

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