Nokia Plots U.S. Comeback With N8 Smartphone, Simpler App Tools
Nokia Oyj’s effort to regain lost U.S. market share hinges on convincing software developers its new high-end smartphone can compete with Apple and Samsung for holiday shoppers, Executive Vice President Tero Ojanpera said.
Holding the new N8 touch-screen phone in a San Francisco hotel, Ojanpera said delivering simple tools for creating games like the popular “Angry Birds” will help Nokia become more relevant to U.S. consumers and overcome Apple Inc.’s dominance.
The N8 will change U.S. shoppers’ views that Nokia devices, which use the Symbian operating system, aren’t as fun or easy to use as Apple’s or products with Google Inc.’s Android software, Ojanpera said in an interview. The world’s biggest handset maker, Nokia has a 38 percent share of the smartphone market, researcher Canalys said. Its total U.S. market share is 7.8 percent, according to ComScore Inc.
“What’s hot in the U.S. today will change,” said Ojanpera, who oversees Espoo, Finland-based Nokia’s location, messaging, entertainment and context-based services. “There’s already talk in the U.S. about Android passing Apple. The good news is change happens and winning ultimately is about responding to the consumers’ needs.”
“Angry Birds,” made by a Finnish company, became an instant hit on Apple’s iPhone. Users control a flock of birds that metes out revenge on the green pigs stealing their eggs.
While games generate buzz, consumer and business applications and services will be a crucial theme at the CTIA wireless-industry conference opening today in San Francisco. Handset makers are attempting to distinguish themselves by delivering a range of applications for work and play.
Nokia is trying to win market share in the smartphone category by integrating features of its online Ovi store, which include music, apps and maps, to offer services such as local concert listings next to tracks of artists such as Coldplay.
The company said on Oct. 1 Ovi downloads had risen to 2.3 million a day. Still, the content available on Ovi is less extensive than on Apple’s store, British Monitor International, a London-based research firm, said in a May report.
“The Ovi Store still comes across as a mobile computing resource for business users,” the company said.
In smartphones, which offer higher profit than basic voice and text phones, Nokia faces many competitors in addition to Apple’s iPhone. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co., the second-largest handset maker, has been winning worldwide carrier support for its Android-based Galaxy S handset. On Oct. 11, Microsoft Corp. will unveil phones using the Windows Phone 7 operating system.
Nokia, which named former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop as chief executive officer last month, has yet to announce a U.S. wireless partner for the N8, which sells on the Web for $549 without a contract.
Most mobile phones in the U.S. are sold through carriers that subsidize purchases if consumers sign a two-year contract. The U.S. is the biggest smartphone market, with 14.7 million units accounting for 23 percent of second-quarter global shipments, UK-based Canalys said in its report.
Ojanpera said Nokia will lure software developers to write more applications for U.S. consumers by giving them access to data it collects from millions of users daily.
The company also has also reduced the complexity of its developer tools and is sponsoring a $10 million contest with AT&T Inc. to create novel applications.
“Nokia is not exposed to the important high-end smartphone market, which accounts for some one-third of the total industry value,” Nystrom said in an Oct. 4 note. “We think that MeeGo- powered devices may save Nokia at the high-end, but this largely depends on timing and on support from developers and operators.”
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