Nokia recently posted its Q3 2009 results and to say they’re disturbing would be a gross understatement. While net sales and operating profit didn’t fare well being down 1% and 4.4% from the previous quarter, the real startling figure is how Nokia is doing now compared to the same time last year. With a net loss of some 559€mm ($833.9mm USD) and sales tallying 9.8€bb ($14.62bb USD), YoY net sales were down 19.8% while operating profit plummeted a jaw dropping 57.8%.
Last year too in the smartphone category,in Q4 2008, Nokia’s smartphone sales had dipped a whopping 17 percent to 15.6 million units. As always, one company’s loss is another’s gain and no two companies highlighted this fact more than more than RIM and Apple. Both more or less doubled their smartphone market share, which than stood at 19.5 percent and 10.7 percent respectively. Apart from the big three, sales of HTC devices were then up 20 percent while Samsung saw its sales increase by an amazing 138 percent to 1.6 million units. Still, they each only commanded modest stake in the smartphone market at 4.3 percent and 1.8 percent respectively at the time.
This year, In terms of market share, Nokia neither lost nor gained ground having managed to hang on to its estimated 38% market share despite pushing approximately 108.5 million devices. Still, this does not change the fact that Nokia’s handset sales are down 8% as the world’s consumers focused their attention on devices made by other manufacturers.
The biggest gainer overall this year…Apple. Its financial results for the fourth quarter 2009, have beat out the predictions. This quarter has seen Apple hit its best results in the history of the company, boasting a rather hefty $1.67 billion profit. The results, found here, show that Apple managed just short of $10 billion in revenue, at a total of $9.87 billion. Apple sold 3.05 million computers during the quarter, giving it a 17 percent unit increase over the previous Q4 results. Additionally, the company sold 10.2 million iPods and 7.4 million iPhones, representing an eight percent unit decline and a seven percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter, respectively. Even LG’s managed better. Now with Palm’s amazing Pre and Android taking over almost all manufacturers, will Nokia will go the same way as Motorola especially since their initiative to make Symbian OpenSource has thus far proven ineffective?
This was the reverie I was in whilst at the launch of the new Nokia E72 Handset at Karachi, Sheraton today. Anyway, first the formalities:
Built on S60 3rd Edition FP2, the Nokia E72 is optimized for messaging and e-mail with a full messaging keyboard and support for EGPRS, WCDMA, HSDPA/HSUPA (3.5G) and WLAN. The device features two customizable Home Screen modes, active noice cancellation and a 5 Mpix autofocus camera. You can write messages with intelligent text input, enjoy videos, music, and graphics on the 2.36” QVGA display. Additional features include GPS and Nokia Maps 3.0, UPnP, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, and USB 2.0 High-Speed.About Nokia E72The E72 builds on the formula from the hugely successful Nokia E71, Nokia’s best selling QWERTY device to date. This latest arrival in Nokia’s Eseries family maintains essential elements of its predecessor, whilst still improving its capabilities in a number of areas.“Despite the outstanding market performance of the Nokia E71, we still continually look for ways to enhance the device,” said Trude Gajland, Category Head Nokia Eseries, MEA. “So we included the desktop like email experience from the Nokia E75 and gave it a new optical navigation key for more intuitive scrolling through menus, emails and fast panning of images. We also upgraded the camera to 5 megapixels and added a standard 3.5 mm audio jack.”On top of these developments, for the first time, owners will be able to set up instant messaging (IM) accounts provided by Nokia Messaging direct from the homescreen. In just a few steps, device owners will be able to connect to their favorite IM accounts such as Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk and Ovi, amongst many others.These new IM features are complimented by Nokia’s range of email solutions with a lifetime license for Nokia’s mobile email and IM service, Nokia Messaging, as well as onboard clients for Mail for Exchange and IBM Lotus Notes Traveler. Accessing popular accounts such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, Ovi Mail and thousands of other email service providers is simple through improved on-device email setup, with the same easy to use UI integrating all of the owner’s corporate email accounts as well.
Other notable features which have been included in the Nokia E72 include A-GPS and compass with integrated Maps, including lifetime walk and 10 days of turn-by-turn navigation if activated within the first three months. Conversations are also clearer with active noise cancellation, and a torch can be activated with a single press of the spacebar key. The office capabilities have been updated with a new version of Quickoffice, which delivers Microsoft Office 2007 compatibility as well as free version upgrades when new features become available.
For further information, the RAM is 256 MB and the processor is clocked up to 600mhz but it is still an arm 11. Finally Nokia arrives to the 600 Mhz category and even then half-heartedly. Whew! Now let’s review what I think of the launch.
According to the Imran Khaild, GM Nokia, Nokia is not trying to displace the 25000 or so Blackberry users in Pakistan. Instead Nokia wants to use a 40,000 PKR phone to cater to the ‘Consumer Market’ as well as the ‘Corporate’……
Correct me if i’m wrong here. It’s one thing that Nokia’s having trouble penetrating the Pakistani corporate market (and even international i’m supposing) due to international policies, IT Policies and the first mover advantage by BB with the Pakistani telecoms. However, the belief that the E-series can cater to a consumer market requires serious re-thinking. In a world dominated by affluent teens and young adults who thrive on IMs, SMS and increasingly social networks on their phone (incidentally Facebook App on Nokia is the worst i’ve used) are being targetted via a 30 year old technology whose behavior requires that a person think
and reply in a more fuller answer than 160 characters. Not the behavior observed in our youth.There’s also a reason why though 300 million people have tried mobile email, only 10% have retained their accounts there (source: Gartner). Mobile behavior is just not conducive towards email messaging beyond short messages and reading. Yet Nokia believes it can cater to the 80% of the people who still don’t have email accounts when they (the people) have already jumped to technologies like SNN and SMS for most of their needs. Anyways, let’s see if this strategy would work.
The other thing observed at the launch was regarding the nature of the questions and general discussion over lunch. The most popular questions asked at the launch were direct comparisons to the iPhone or its features especially touch (to which Imran replied they want to produce touch for the mass market than an elite market…..). This reminded me about Apple’s recent stunt. In a question as to how Apple viewed its increased competition for the iPhone, Apple COO Tim Cook said “they’re still catching up with the first iPhone”. Nokia… you just cannot do Touch. Touch is a nightmare on Symbian, no matter how cheap it is. I’ve used both the 5800 XM and a 5530 XM in my lifetime and neither gets marks for ease of use or accessibility. Both still require a stylus to use properly.
One of the FAQs often thrown at Nokia’s events is regarding number of iPhone Apps vs. number of Nokia’s Apps. Nokia’s answer usually is that we have countless apps and thus more than Apple. However, that is side stepping the issue very neatly. Apple just crossed the 100,000 Apps for ONE PHONE only. Nokia’s apps are spread over so many series and models, that none of the phones probably has more than 10,000 at best. I counted around 4000 for my Nokia 5730 on www.getjar.com.
Also If i were the brand manager at Nokia, i’d be getting serious nightmares. Instead of one of my phones being the benchmark / standard in the industry (e.g. N72 vs. Nokia 97) or even the current E72 phone being launched thought cool enough to define a new standard, i’m nowhere in the tech leader’s category. Instead for free my main competitor is gaining publicity at my expense. Though the questions were handled very deftly (full marks to Imran), it just shows that people belief that Nokia’s losing its technology lead to its competitors. Even during lunch the general conversation centered around a lot of topics but what was launched.
The problem is being multiplied moreso. The upcoming phones by Nokia are just more of the same. These include the Nokia N97 mini, Nokia X6 and Nokia 5230.
Now I agree completely that most of the sales for Nokia comes from mid-low end phones especially in the sub-continental and Chinese markets. Unlike the west also, we simply can’t afford iPhones or most smart-phones. We pay full price for ‘Unlocked’ phones rather than having them subsidized through telecom packages, thus Nokia’s offerings really makes sense in our price conscious markets. However, does the strategy of keep pumping out so called “new models” with minor differences (e.g. 6303, N95, N86, 7310, 7510 etc…) really work? Do potential customers of these phones really care if the cam has been “upgraded” or not? If sales are increasing whilst profit is shrinking, so does it still make sense to keep pumping out so called “new models” constantly? More importantly when YOY the sales results are showing that the strategy is not working, why is the strategy not being changed.
In marketing, we have a saying that ‘Less Is More’. Yet Nokia is increasingly trying to ‘cater to all markets’ and segments, not noticing that these are not the markets of a decade ago. GM had the same problem with low end Japanese imports (Chinese mobiles anyone) and premium brands and tried to get out of the situation then by launching Saturn.
Fundamentally, there are two ways to increase sales: (1) Expand the brand, or (2) Expand the brand’s market share.
Most companies focus on the first way, expanding the brand. While this might seem to work in the short term, expanding the brand will eventually weaken the brand and leave it in worse shape than before the process began. While it’s more difficult to expand a brand’s market share, this is the better way to go. The larger the market share, the more powerful a brand becomes. When a brand reaches 50 percent or more market share, it becomes so dominant that it is almost impossible for a competitor to overtake.
Perception dictates reality. Does Starbucks coffee tastes better because the consumer thinks it tastes better or is it really better?
The larger the market share, the more dominant the brand, the greater effect the brand has on the consumer’s perception of reality. All candy bars are pretty much alike, because no one brand dominates the category. Every one percent increase in a brand’s market share does two things, both favorable. One, it increases the power of the brand in the mind of the consumer and two, it decreases the power of competitive brands.
The ultimate goal of a marketing campaign should be to dominate the brand’s category so the brand itself becomes a generic name for the category.
Which brings up the sad saga of Saturn.
Here is a brand introduced by GM less than 20 years ago in a highly competitive category. In 1994, just four years after its introduction, Saturn hit its high-water mark, selling 286,003 cars. That year, the average Saturn dealer sold more vehicles than the average of any other brand. That was the year the Saturn spirit was in full bloom. That was the year 44,000 owners and families attended a ‘homecoming’ at the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. So what did Saturn do next? Did it try to expand its market share? Or did it try to expand the Saturn brand into larger and more expensive vehicles? You’re right. Expand the brand.
A typical quote from that year: ‘Many analysts feel that Saturn will eventually need a bigger model to retain customers as they older and more affluent’, reported The Wall Street Journal in its June 17, 1994 issue. In the February 9, 1998 issue of Automotive News, Ron Zarella, then vice president of GM’s North American sales, service and marketing, was quoted as saying, We’re doing everything we can to get them a wider product range. In the March 9, 1998 issue of Automotive News, Charles Child, news editor, said: GM has to bite the bullet and let Saturn spread its wings. That is, give Saturn a full line of cars and light trucks as soon as practical. In January 1999, Cynthia Trudell took over as head of Saturn and as you might expect, one of the first things she said was that Saturn is definitely looking for ways to expand the portfolio. (Ms. Trudell was the first woman to head a car division at any domestic or foreign auto maker.) Two years later, Ms. Trudell was gone and Annette Clayton took over. The strategy didn’t change, however. My focus for the immediate future, said Ms. Clayton, is to prepare us for the SUV launch and to position us to grow the portfolio. The larger Saturn (the S series) was introduced in 1999. The sport-utility vehicle (the Vue) in 2002 and a replacement for the original Saturn (the Ion), also in 2002. When Bob Lutz arrived at GM as vice chairman responsible for product development, he sounded the same tune. In the December 13, 2004 issue of Fortune, he was quoted as saying: We’re investing in Saturn’s future because the inherent health of the brand is quite good. It just needs a bigger, more exciting product portfolio. Nothing helped. Saturn sales fluctuated over the years, but never reached the high-water mark of 1994. Then in 2004, in spite of the fact that Saturn dealers had three models to sell, as opposed to the original one, sales were only 212,017 units, down 26 percent from 1994. Average sales per dealer were only 483 units, half the level of a decade earlier.
The E-series is starting to sound like GM’s Saturn. In catering to the Corporate Category, Nokia’s losing its focus on the consumer markets (My Nokia 5730 does not sync with OVI Store and doesn’t work with OVI Suite 1.4 out of the box). Worse, it’s not even doing corporate well. There’s virtually no distinction between the different phones in the E-series. The hyped up Nokia-Seimens venture NSN is going the Nortel way. (Do read up on http://www.cn-c114.net/577/a452043.html). The technologies being deployed are starting to sound old. On the consumer smartphone front, Samsung Star has swept the market in our part of the world because of which Nokia’s launched a mega-campaign promoting the 5530 to contest it. Nokia Pakistan is also not bracing for the fact that operators are starting to bundle phones with their packages and whilst it’s going to be impossible to route Nokia from the low-end phones market in the immediate future (they make up over 80% of Nokia Pakistan’s Revenues), over time the sexier technologies being bundled with Chinese (TV anyone?????) and other OEMs manufacturer will create a dent in the market share as the category shifts from voice to other forms.
Granted there’s a huge difference between cars & phones and markets and times… however in my opinion Nokia is starting to sound the same tune. They’ve lost what made them Nokia in the first place ‘Connecting People’ and are trying to expand the brand into areas where it doesn’t belong using the same technologies over and over, pushing them to death in all their series until there’s virtually no differentiation – a death knell for the brand. Here’s an excerpt from their press release ‘… we make a wide range of devices for all major consumer segments and offer internet services that enable people to experience music, maps, media, messaging and games….’. Sounds like a serious lack of strategy. For what customers really think about their Flagship N97 check out http://www.intomobile.com/2009/10/27/video-dear-nokia-the-nokia-n97-blows-and-you-know-it.html. Toshiba’s recently announced that they’ll be mass producing a 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor for fones in Q3 2010. Compare that to the highest Nokia 8 megs.
With the new enterprise / corporate trends like cloud computing devices, Enterprise 2.0, android, Winmo 7 (i’m really excited about this one), mobility computing, social applications, HD on phones and so much more, where do we place Nokia’s products in the upcoming smarter world especially its E-series?