It’s quite surprising to actually be writing this, I honestly never pictured Nokia would be in such a situation. From being the No. #1 manufacturer making devices that people liked and looked forward to, things sure have changed. It seems things have just gone downhill for them. Now, I am supposed to be biased and stay neutral, but I do have a soft corner for Nokia, it’s my brand of choice.

But with things rolling the way they are, I don’t know how long will it stay there at the top. The Nokia N97 was supposed to be a game changer, a fantastic device when it came to looks but we never thought for a moment that the problems of this device were internal. from an underpowered overworked processor, bad GPS lock, to woeful internal memory and abysmally low RAM that created a competition amongst us bloggers about who could squeeze the least RAM from the device and do more.

Image Courtesy: Blog N97

Then came the N97mini which did solve a few of the issues, but could not solve them all. The N86 which was touted as the replacement for the famed N82, failed because it did not have a critical component – xenon flash, it did have dual LED flash which was claimed to be almost as good as the xenon, but then again if LED was this good, camera manufacturers would have long quit putting xenon flash in their digital cameras.

Nokia at this time was investing heavily (and still is) in the internet business. It was trying to create the an online entity that would provide a number of services to users across the world. Email, file storage, contacts back up, maps, app store, music – a online ecoverse for Nokia devices, under the name of Ovi. Some of the services did well, while some fizzled out.

At the same time we saw the emergence of Android and the expansion of the Apple’s app store. Though Android did not click initially, Google has been quick to make the OS evolve and it is now rocking V2.2 aka Froyo. At this rate Android might just overtake Nokia and it’s solutions.

Moving from Boardrooms to Classrooms

If that wasn’t enough, BlackBerry emerged as a major player, no longer confined to the people in the the suits and ties. It had escaped from the confines of boardrooms and entered classrooms. BlackBerry almost lost out as it did not have an App store, but it quickly put one up and today is doing close to 900,000 downloads a day.

By this time, Nokia actually did not have devices to introduce to counter the emergence of new players into its territory. Samsung also began its charge to challenge Nokia with a barrage of models, all aimed at a point where Nokia was extremely weak.

Within a short span of time, Samsung had touchscreen phones at price points that were never thought to be possible. The Star series, followed by the Corby line completely changed the tide in favour of Samsung. With touch screen starting at INR 7000, it seemed as if the wind had been punched out of many incumbents, Nokia being one of them.

Around the same time the Indian market saw the emergence of many national manufacturers – Micromax, Maxx and so many more. Many of the existing players like Spice and Fly also saw their fortunes change. Suddenly you had a wave of manufacturers with all sorts of names offering phones that looked like expensive Nokias, BlackBerries, etc. They had it all, Micro SD slots, Bluetooth, Dual SIM slots, colour screens and even huge batteries at times. All of these features at a price point of around Rs.2500 – Rs.3000. At that kind of a price point, a lot of people had second thoughts about buying a Nokia or even a low end Samsung for that matter. Nokia had nothing to counter this new threat and with Samsung and others gunning at the top end of the market, Nokia clearly was squeezed.

At this point, Nokia just coiled up and must have done a lot of thinking. This introspection saw Nokia streamline its offerings into 4 series – C, E,N and X. it also saw Nokia finally listen to its loyalists and introduce the N8, a 12MP camera phone with Xenon flash. But between realising that they had messed it up and coiling up and outing a slew of models, it seems that Nokia might have missed the bus. Too many changes have been effected by these little players and the established behemoths. Motorola is back, Sony Ericsson seems to have interesting devices, HTC is rocking a better OS – Android and Microsoft may have a winner with the new Windows 7 OS.

Suddenly there far too many options available for the guy who till a couple of years ago was looking at only Nokia to fill his needs. Even us bloggers and early adopters who used to swear by Nokia are having second thoughts because we have been disappointed way too many times. I am actively considering a BlackBerry or an Android to replace one of my smartphones.

In fact, Nokia should try honestly answering these questions, I know a lot of people who are asking such questions… and if you don’t have an honest answer to even one of them, then you’ve got a problem Nokia!

I had posed these very same questions back in December, 2008 when I was looking at the entry level market where Nokia had little presence at that point in time. Today, on a macro level it’s the same situation all over again.

Why would a customer want to buy your product over your competitors’ products?
What else, apart from the brand Nokia are you selling him?
Why should he not consider another product over yours?
How are you providing him better value if you cannot match up to your competitors?

A game changer for Nokia?

So does this mean it is all over for Nokia? No. Nokia does have a good device up its sleeve. Something that might just turn things around for it, at least in the Indian market, which is the second largest market for it. The N900 is a device that could rewrite the rules and really get people to believe in a Nokia. But only and only if Nokia can deliver a product that has more advantages than flaws and bugs.

It needs to listen to us bloggers even more than it previously did. Trust us, we know what we are saying when we are saying those things. Bloggers are good for not only generating buzz, but also for advising you regarding products, services, etc. At a time when the market is changing, thanks to us early adopters, it only makes sense to keep your ears a little closer to our mouths.

Let me not digress from the topic. One or a couple of devices are not enough to save Nokia. What customers want is a stable OS, a great user experience, a little adventure, features that are worth the money and they want all of these things at all price points. Today the customer has become aware of his/her choices and there are plenty of them. It’s time to perform or perish!

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