Sunday, 19 February 2012

Kenya: Microsoft Rides to Rescue Nokia As It Struggles to Crash Smartphone Party
By Moses Munene, 16 February 2012


For decades, Nokia was in the enviable and near-unassailable position of global cellphone maker. Its domination was near total; market presence, volume of handsets shipped, marketshare, user-friendliness and user loyalty. And the vital statistics bore testament too. In 2008, it was ranked 8th largest/most valuable by Brandirectory with an equity of $33,116m.

Today, 4 years later, the Brandirectory report card makes for a grim read. Nokia is ranked 94th. And valued at $9658m; a fall of 71 per cent.

Pick any measure and it attests to the slide from the dizzying heights. The share price has halved and the latest round of culling swept 4,000 staff. In Q4 of 2011, from net sales of EUR 10,005bn, losses hit EUR 954m. By contrast Samsung banked £3bn profits.

The new entrants, notably Apple and Samsung - snapped up Nokia's marketshare; from 40 per cent in 2009 it stands at 25per cent today, the lowest for 13 years. Though Nokia leads in global shipment volumes - low-end Symbian phones that only fetch a fraction of the price of a smartphone; a market in which it ranked 3rd in Q2 2011 with 16.7m behind Apple at 20.3m and Samsung with 19.2m.

It is running a genuine risk of playing also-ran, as the two swap leader and runners-up in the smartphone market whilst ZTE, HTC and LG make strides and threaten its now unfamiliar no.3 position. Back to the brand league, Apple has filled Nokia's 8th position and Samsung has risen 18th from 23th.

Where once it enjoyed a virtual monopoly and dictated the pace and nature of change, Nokia now operates in an unfamiliar market landscape whose only constant is ever evolving innovation in short sharp product cycles driven by new competitors.Nokia has become a follower.

The Nokia Lumia, its most serious match yet to the iPhone and Galaxy, was launched in late 2011. By then pioneers had leapt to second generation smartphones; Apple with the iPhone 4, and 4S, and Samsung boasted its portfolio of Galaxy Ace S, SII; quick upgrades to preserve their pole positions. The frontier was further reconfigured as they shifted battle to the tablet market. Besides the technology lag, Nokia had an impregnable brand loyalty to claw back.

At critical points Nokia was found wanting. This was the import of the new CEO's infamous burning platform memo. While the game changed, its then CEO was accused of being asleep at the helm, failing to adjudge threat posed by competitors as they rolled out the smartphones with gusto. Yet it was not for lack of innovation; it felt aggrieved and sued Apple for patent violation over voice recognition, wireless and encryption. Instead, it was inertia and tardiness in translating concepts into prototypes and compelling products in record time. Case in point, it was 3 years late in launching dual-sim handsets; long after rivals had been there, done that.

While the market leaders took a software-centric model and pitched in two camps; Google's Android and IOS from Apple, Nokia was isolated with its in-house limited and inferior software Symbian. Worse is the apparent indecision over a preferred operating system? Nokia has cavorted between Symbian, Meego, Microsoft Windows and lately has acquired Meltemi. The Apple and Android hold will be difficult to breach.

While Nokia's users' vocabulary was limited to talk and text, smartphone lexicon was littered with apps, tether, pinch, tap, browse, download, touch screen, HD, slide - all vogue functions unfamiliar to Nokia. Competitors grasped early on that a successful future was in handheld connectivity by way of a rich ecosystem. This is the interdependence of technology gadgets and content specific to a brand to give users a 'fuller' experience.

A famous cowboy quote warns of the risks of changing riders midstream. But with looming challenges, the Nokia horse needed a new rider and a new course; exit Olli-PekkaKallasvuo enter Stephen Elop - ex Microsoft and fabled for instigating change. The appointment was symbolic. As Nokia's first non-Finnish CEO, was Nokia now outward looking and refocusing on software not handsets? Could Microsoft be Nokia's knight? Could the appointment be a precursor to eventual Nokia-Microsoft nuptials? Given that Elop at Macromedia drove forth Adobe flash's tie-up with Nokia.

The mooted partnership seems to make synergy sense; Nokia with its cellphone market experience married with Microsoft's widely used and available software. At a stroke, Nokia would have a ready-made ecosystem sans the requisite high costs of building one. At its disposal would be access to Microsoft bouquet of applications, Microsoft Windows, Internet explorer browser, XBox, Kinetic and Zune.

The natural progression into the tablet arena must be a serious consideration. Nokia may not develop an ipad-killer, but a Nokia tablet may appeal to users while adding another node in its new ecosystem. With its books in the red, Nokia could rest easy with Microsoft's deep pockets now available should the need arise.

The new Lumia has hardly dented the iPhone and Samsung marketshare. It may be a question of time until Symbian is shed as sales of Symbian products are declining faster than sales of Windows-driven gadgets. Taking a pessimistic stance, the last such partnership, Sony Ericsson, spanned 10 years and was rocky. Its professed aim of blending Sony's brand with Ericsson's technology, failed to pay dividends. Sales fell and Sony, sensing a raw deal, reportedly lined up a severance offer of $1.7bn to Ericsson.

The web offers two variations as to the origin of the word Nokia; soot and unbreakable. Both translations underline targets for Nokia - strong books and brand.

Sprint Nextel is taking the first steps toward finally shedding the Nextel iDEN network, which has been nothing but a financial and operational drain on the company.

Pretty soon, the Nextel in Sprint Nextel isn't going to make much sense anymore.

Dan Hesse at Sprint headquarters today

Dan Hesse, pictured at the company's headquarters in July, has gently steered the Nextel network to its eventual end.
(Credit: Kent German/CNET)

Sprint's Nextel network won't completely shut down until next year, but the company is already working to turn off the iDEN network. During the company's quarterly conference call today, executives laid out plans to decommission cell sites this year and talked up the financial benefits to come.

Nextel merged with Sprint in one of the most ill-advised deals in corporate history, with consequences of the disaster still apparent seven years later. Today, the company reported yet another unprofitable quarter. Nextel, which at one point had nearly as many customers as Sprint, has been nothing but a financial, operational, and strategic distraction for the company. Getting rid of Nextel gives Sprint added flexibility and marks a major step in the company's ability to truly turn itself around.

For CEO Dan Hesse, relief is in sight.

"It's a big cost drain on the company to have to run two networks," Hesse told CNET in an interview. "We're finally in a position both financially and with our network to solve that in a productive and elegant way."

But shutting down a network isn't easy, and the company is already bracing for a rocky year. Unlike last year, Hesse declined to provide any kind of expectation for contract customer growth. That's because the company is looking for a sharp increase in turnover from the Nextel side, as customers hop off a service that is either about to shut off or already out.

There are still 6.3 million customers on the Nextel iDEN network, 4.3 million of them on a contract. Many of them are still fiercely loyal to iDEN's trademark push-to-talk walkie-talkie service, potentially leaving a lot of disgruntled people looking for a new wireless home.

Plan on track
Sprint's plan to decommission the network is already off to a decent start. On Monday, the company set up a Web site that allows Nextel customers to see whether their markets would begin to lose cell sites and coverage.

Sprint executives said today that it plans to shut down 9,600 cell sites on the Nextel side, saving a significant amount on utilities, maintenance, and rent costs.

Related stories

    Clearwire to have 5,000 LTE sites running by June 2013
    U.S. Cellular pushing ahead with 4G LTE plans
    Intellectual Ventures targets AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile on patents
    4G LTE in Europe to get spectrum boost--next year
    LightSquared's deal with Sprint further falters

"This will be the year that is really the beginning of active migration off of the iDEN platform," Hesse said.

Sprint is expected to realize $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in depreciated Nextel assets this year, with $450 million realized in the first quarter alone.

Sprint is eager to rid itself of the iDEN network--classified as a 2G network--and move on to a 4G LTE network under its infrastructure upgrade plan. Unlike the other carriers, Sprint has had to manage these two networks simultaneously, with little return.

So while AT&T or Verizon could move to LTE from their current 3G networks, Sprint was hobbled with managed two older networks while planning out its own roadmap.

Beyond costs, Nextel was Sprint's largest source of customer defection. So no matter the improvement in the core Sprint service, the company as a whole would continue to report customer losses, particularly on the contract side. That changed in the fourth quarter, when the gains from Sprint and its newly acquired iPhone overpowered the losses at Nextel.

End of an era
Nextel's end would mark a concluding chapter in one of the worst mergers in history.

Sprint and Nextel announced in 2004 their intent to merge, and ultimately closed the transaction a year later. The deal was presented as a merger of equals, something that rarely works out, and included two headquarters in Reston, Va., and Overland Park, Kan. Executives attempted to merge clashing corporate cultures, with Sprint employees often winning out.

The management team, then led by CEO Gary Forsee, bungled the integration effort and realized there was no easy way to merge Sprint's CDMA network with Nextel's iDEN network.

The Sprint bias showed itself in investment in the service, with Sprint getting much of the capital improvements at the expense of deteriorating service on the Nextel end. Former Nextel executives have long privately bemoaned the quick fall of what had been the nation's fourth-largest service before the merger.

When CEO Dan Hesse took over in late 2007, the company was a mess. He put resources back into the Nextel network, focusing on improving service while also bulking up the company's customer-care operations. He also used Nextel's excess capacity to power its prepaid service. But 2010, Hesse announced the network would be shut off for good.

A land grab for Nextel customers
While the subscriber base for Nextel's service is shrinking, it's rabidly loyal. New Nextel phones are among the products that garner the most comments and questions from customers. These are customers who have stuck with a 2G network primarily because of the walkie-talkie function.

That loyalty to Sprint Nextel overall will be tested once the company begins to approach customers to get them off of the service. The customer defection will mark a land grab of sorts as rival carriers--and Sprint itself--works to pick up consumers looking for a new service provider.

Hesse believes Sprint can pick up more than its fair share of departing Nextel customers.

His biggest asset: the recently released Sprint Direct Connect service, a push-to-talk function on Sprint's network that the company believes is comparable to Nextel's trademark feature. Sprint previously attempted to offer a CDMA phone with push-to-talk capabilities, but it was deemed too slow and didn't draw in many takers.

Hesse said he is convinced it will work, and said he wouldn't have felt comfortable decommissioning the iDEN network if the company didn't have Sprint Direct Connect in place.

"We think we have an advantage in catching that customer base," Hesse said. "We expect to win more than our share of customers up for grabs.

With Sprint still far behind larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Hesse better be right.

Read more:
“Next Big Thing” TV ads. The mobile giant aired its multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad and unveiled what many experts predicted to be the company’s smartphone-tablet hybrid: the Samsung Galaxy Note. Fashioned after its smaller sibling, the Galaxy S II, the Note keeps a majority of its predecessor’s fancies, while welcoming new hardware. After causing a few waves on the international market, Samsung’s finally ready to unleash the so-called iPhone killer in an attempt to once again dominate the mobile game.

Spearheaded by the largest HD mobile display ever created, a high-tech stylus dubbed the S-Pen, and AT&T’s updated LTE service, the Note seems destined for big things. So does it bridge the gap between smartphones and tablets? Or is it just a overly large smartphone filled with promise?


• Introducing the S-Pen: Needless to say the Note’s biggest attraction is its high-tech stylus dubbed the S-Pen. The add-on runs on Electro-Magnetic Resonance technology and allows users to capture screenshots, create annotations, write memos, and navigate through the UI. The combination of these attributes make the stylus intriguing. For instance, you can grab a screenshot of a map and use the S-Pen to perform minor design work such as doodling directions and cropping sections. Also cool is when the S-Pen comes in contact with the touchscreen, capacitive input is unrecognized, meaning you can rest your hand on the display and still perform commands. We also liked how the stylus is adjustable to either hand via settings.

Software-wise, there are two versions of Samsung’s S Memo app, each serving as an outlet to jot notes and do other things like merge audio and images. The S-Pen-themed Crayon Physics game was fun and resembles the Nintendo DS’ Kirby: Canvas Curse, where you solve puzzles and reach end points by drawing objects on the screen. There are two artsy programs made specifically for the S-Pen (OmniSketch and Zen Brush) that offers a good platform to create designs, but were unavailable on our unit. Samsung also notes that the stylus provides more precision on other Android Market games, Fruit Ninja in particular. They’re right.

• Mind-blowing HD Super AMOLED display: Samsung’s AMOLED touchscreens have yet to be topped and with the release of its behemoth handset comes the first-ever 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED Display. Videos, images, and text always look better on a bigger screen, but a hi-def AMOLED makes everything far more vivid and immerse. We jumped on Netflix and stood mesmerized by the stunning visuals and neon-enriched colors produced from the screen when watching Tron Legacy. The viewing angles are amazing and the high-res output is unmatched. YouTube clips, transferred video files, and images looked sharp. Web pages and emails generated crisp text, too. Simply put: It's the best…smartphone…display…out!

• Fast LTE and processing speeds: AT&T’s stepped up its 4G game as we experienced with its last two Android offerings (the HTC Vivid and Moto Atrix II). Samsung’s phone brings improved data speeds peaking at 15Mbps download and 3Mpbs upload. The 1.5GHz Snapdragon dual-core delivers rapid performance on all ends from web browsing to registering all S-Pen commands. It’s a multitasking beast that keeps the phone active and lag-free, even with a couple of huge-memory apps open in the background. The 1GB of RAM also plays wingman for the high-powered CPU.

• Long-lasting battery: Under the hood lies a 2,500mAh energizer that Samsung claims can hold a 10-hour charge via continuous use and last 10.4 days on standby time. We can’t vouch for the latter due to our limited time with the device, but the battery held up extremely well during heavy multimedia, messaging, and S-pen activity sessions. In addition, the Note features the same Power Saving Mode found on the Galaxy S II to ensure longer energy endurance. Surely you won’t get the same 12+ hours of usage that the Droid RAZR Maxx dishes, but a solid 8 to 9 hours should suffice during long trips.

• True enterprise phone: The S-Pen already plays in favor of the corporate crowd by providing a faster option to update reports and scribble reminders on the go. Samsung’s included several other “business-to-business foundations” on the device starting with its SAFE program—bundling on-device encryption, VPN support, and Exchange ActiveSync for email, calendar, and contact management. 

If the love for taking out the undead while on the move meant fans with the BlackBerry PlayBook could do nothing but sulk, the good news is that EA has ported Plants vs. Zombies to RIM’s tablet. At any rate, the game should look pretty good on the 7-inch LCD touchscreen sported by the slate.

The plot is as simple as it gets – users have to bring on the arsenal in an attempt to prevent zombies from getting to their front door. The only available equipment involves no less than 49 ‘zombie-zapping’ plants. The goal is to keep the impending attack at bay with the help of peashooters, cherry bombs and wall-nuts.

“In Plants vs. Zombies for the BlackBerry PlayBook, you’ll choose from an ever-increasing arsenal of zombie-zapping plants in order to confuse, weaken, and mulchify the monsters plodding across your yard. But plan well, because each type of zombie has its own special skills and behaviors,” says EA in a recent post.

Plants vs. Zombies PlayBook

There are 26 types of zombies and each of them comes creeping along with unique skills so that players’ gardening talents will be put to a proper stress test. Adding to the bother of a limited stash of seeds and greens, hurdles like the setting sun, swimming pool and fog also have to be dealt with wisely.

The Plants vs. Zombies price is $4.99, which may not be too heavy for anyone who’s a die-hard fan of the PopCap game. It can be purchased for the BlackBerry PlayBook through where else, but the BlackBerry App World.
Related Headlines:

    Plants vs. Zombies from PopCap creeps onto the Apple App Store
    Plants vs. Zombies walks in for Windows Phone 7
    Plants vs. Zombies upgraded for iPhone and iPod touch gamers
    Free BlackBerry PlayBook offered with BlackBerry Enterprise Server v5.0 upgrade
    RIM discloses BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 at CES 2012

« Swype beta now supports Ice Cream Sandwich
Gigabyte GSmart G1355 Android phone with dual SIM functionality »

Comments are closed.

Wednesday's big stories were again Apple-related; from the most recent iPhone 5 rumor to snippets that emerged from Cupertino's Tuesday evening earnings call.

9to5Mac said it got its hands on some details about the iPhone 5, which Foxconn is reportedly about to start producing. What does this fabled smartphone look like? There's apparently a 4-inch screen, a new form factor, and more.

It appears that Apple's record iPad sales last quarter, meanwhile, were better than HP's computer sales.

Speaking of HP, the company on Wednesday announced a timetable for when it would open-source webOS, with open webOS 1.0 expected by September.

In other earnings news, Netflix appeared to have rebounded from the price hike/Qwikster snafu, adding 600,000 customers during the fourth quarter. Competitive pressure from Amazon, HBO, and others, however, still looms.

Also making headlines on Wednesday:

    Megaupload Founder Denied Bail Over Flight Risk: A New Zealand judge on Wednesday ordered the founder of the lucrative offshore file transfer site be held in custody for another month while awaiting extradition to the U.S. on charges of racketeering, copyright infringement, and money laundering.
    How AT&T's Spectrum Transfer Will Help T-Mobile Customers: T-Mobile customers, want to see how your service will improve after AT&T transfers spectrum to your carrier?
    Motorola's Latest Patent Suit Targets Apple's iPhone 4S, iCloud: Motorola Mobility filed another patent lawsuit against Apple, asking the court for an injunction against the iPhone 4S and Apple's iCloud service.
    Google's Privacy Policy: A Wakeup Call, But That's It: Two Congressional privacy hawks have now taken Google to task for its new, unified privacy policy. And while their protests may be off the mark, their warnings should not go unheeded.
    Hackers Target Israeli Newspaper, Hospital Web Sites: Hackers continued to hit targets in the Middle East this week, with the Web site for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, as well as two Israeli hospital Web sites, coming under attack.
    GOP Slams Obama Administration Over Chevy Volt Fire Response: House Republicans on Wednesday took issue with how the Obama administration handled the recent Chevy Volt fire inquiry, arguing that an "unnatural relationship" exists between GM, Chrysler, and the Obama administration.
    O2 Users Unknowingly Share Phone Number on Visited Sites: O2 phones are unknowingly sharing a user's phone number with Web sites they visit.
    EU Data-Privacy Overhaul Gives Consumers More Control: The European Commission on Wednesday proposed an overhaul to its data protection laws, which will provide users with more control over their data and make the process of monitoring data security less complex for agencies across the EU.
    12 Things You Should Know About Facebook Timeline: We answer the top questions about the imminently non-optional Facebook feature.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

Raj Rajput  [  MBA ]
Mobile Reviews Expert
On Line Assistence    :
Gtalk                          :
Y! Messenger             :
Rediff Bol                    :
MSN                           :

No comments:

Post a Comment