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July 20, 2007

One Does Phones Another Wireless

LIKE SEVERAL OTHER writers, I watch both Nokia and Motorola produce mass market products. I also watch the end results and know that it will be a strange occasion to discover Motorola vanquishing Nokia in any mobile telephony segment. I think it's down to one core reason: Nokia does phones well and Motorola does wireless infrastructure well. Market results seem to suggest you cannot top both categories at the same time. Nokia has the mobile phone market, selling more than one billion phones to date.

I kick around with the Nokia N70 in the photo. My cat likes it better than any other phone I've owned. I have owned several Nokia handsets costing more than EUR 500 each. I made my decisions based on form factor and business usage requirements. Motorola products didn't even make the short list. I've owned several Motorola phones. One had the most durable finish I've seen for pub operations--you could slide it across the floor, through the Guinness and under the feet of a nearby table and it still held its connection. Another was a EUR 400 fashion statement that my dog ate one evening. But every year, I buy Nokia phones because they fit my needs best. And I know friends with different needs that buy Nokia as well since Nokia's lineup of phones fills complete walls of many Irish mobile phone shops.

I've visited Helsinki and walked the Nokia campus. The place oozes with trendy things and if you avoid getting clipped by the ruthless cyclists, you will see the secret Nokia sauce. It is Nokia's supply-chain management. Nokia's logistical processes pummel the rest of the competition.

At a product launch next week, I'll stun someone from Nokia PR by dropping a Nokia N95 in front of them. It's an old trick and normally results in me getting to keep the phone I've just damaged. That aside, the evening gig shows Nokia doing something Russ Beattie consistently underlines--Nokia connects with developers, advocates and niche specialists. When dealing with Motorola, I can talk to the tech guys or the marketing people. I don't get to speak to someone who understands the use case scenarios for the phones themselves.

Maybe I'm not on the correct calling list when it comes to talking to the proper specialists. Maybe Motorola's key players work out of time zones an ocean removed and that's the reason for the European disconnect. Maybe something else has ensured Nokia remains at the top of the pile for business phones, multimedia phones and phones that take the hardest knocks when tossed into school lockers or slid across pub floors. Nokia now has 37% of global sales according to Gartner and even with the iPhone's launch, Nokia will probably gain another three percent market share. These numbers have risen from 28% in 2004.

I think Nokia will do these numbers. Their low-end phones are in most college backpacks that I see at work. Their tablets are the buzz of the moment at Irish tech groups and on mainstream podcasts. Nokia has spanned wide swaths of the market and its handsets appeal to a highly diverse international demographic. Both of these strategies make the company resistant to seasonal fluctuations or new market entrants like the iPhone.

Next month, Nokia invites people to Go Play with its most expensive mobile phones, its home entertainment solutions and its accessories. Although those kinds of show-and-tell occasions do little to excite me, they show Nokia works proactively to attract and engage its customers and advocates. Is such a practise too difficult for the other brands?

Jack Ewing -- "Why Nokia is Leaving Moto in the Dust"
Russell Beattie -- "When is Motorola Going to Get It Together?"



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Hi Bernie,

I'm not so sure. I agree that Motorola seem to have lost the momentum they created after the RAZR and never followed it up quickly. I've become a fan of Sony Ericsson of late, and have moved from being a complete Nokia advocate, to now prefering the Sony Ericsson interface. And Samsung seem to be stealing the crown of really cool really thin phones.

Having used an iPhone briefly recently, I can honestly say that it is a wonder, and that as long as Apple follow it up with smaller form factor / 3G versions (which they did with the iPod), then they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.


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