Simon Ainslie, Nokia’s UK MD, was polite but more than a bit dismissive when asked at the start of the year about the traditional handset rivals. It was surprising given the success of Samsung and Sony Ericsson in recent years. Nokia has believed for the past year that the scrap over small percentage points of market share is energy sapping and, frankly, not worthy of the small gains. Instead, Ainslie picked out Google and RIM as the two companies to watch for.
The prospect of a Google phone appears to have filled Nokia with intense fear, and has prompted the manufacturer to launch its Ovi platform to head off the challenge. RIM represents a more real and present threat to Nokia. BlackBerry has become synonymous with mobile email, making it what Hoover is to vacuum cleaners. So far its devices have been dished out to middle managers in big corporations, sitting in a suit pocket usually alongside a little Nokia.
Nokia’s move to cut the BlackBerry application out of its new email phones is further acknowledgement of Nokia’s ambitions and the onset of the single, multi-functioning device. Nokia is concerned about protecting its highly lucrative business and corporate market, in which it has enjoyed almost complete market dominance for years. Nokia has also stated its intention to ‘make markets’ – opening up brand new areas and taking the focus away from mobile phones for people just interested in calling and texting. Mobile email for the masses is seen as just the opportunity to make a market.
For RIM, it is proof if proof were needed that it is entering the big league, and is no longer just a small little upstart that the likes of Nokia doesn’t consider a rival. RIM has already led the way with mobile email for the mass market with its Pearl devices. It may lose the revenue from Nokia not licensing its application, but it is now competing toe-to-toe with Nokia in a much bigger market beyond the middle managers.