Nokia light on strategy, high on rhetoric

In the space of just four months, Nokia has gone from being on a burning platform to burning as brightly as the sun, according to the latest ‘Elop-ism’.
The firm’s chief used its annual sidelines show at CommunicAsia in Singapore to note how at mid-summer “the sun appears to stand still for a moment,” before beginning a “new season.” According to Elop, that’s where Nokia is at today.
Trouble is, we all expected to hear something about the firm’s strategy for emerging markets, following recent news of sales slumping in what has become the mainstay for the firm while it flounders in high-end devices.
What we got was news of new dual-SIM devices, and the presentation of the N9, Nokia’s first – and potentially last - high-end unit running MeeGo. Elop pledged that N9 features including its industrial design – it features a curved touchscreen – and user interface will feed into future Nokia handsets. It was perhaps a hint on what the first Windows Phone 7 device will look like, but told us little about recovering sales in emerging markets.
Mary McDowell, executive vice president of mobile phones, provided a little more insight, unveiling the firm’s third dual-SIM device in the space of a month. “We may be late to this party, but we’re in full swing now,” she conceded. Nokia has worked to make it easier to configure both SIMs and to access call lists and phonebooks on devices that can remember up to five cards, she said.
SMS will also be a key element in Nokia’s emerging market devices. McDowell revealed 22 million users have accessed its Lifetools services in the past year. The set-up uses SMS to deliver localized services covering agriculture, education and healthcare on Series 30 and 40 handsets.
Elop tried to explain the rationale behind the SMS focus, noting that 3.7 billion global subscribers don’t have a smartphone, and that 1.2 billion of them have access to SMS.
The firm also avowed its commitment to Symbian, revealing today it has finalized its deal to outsource future management of the platform to Accenture until 2016.
Whether all of this represents the “new era” theme Elop talked up in Singapore remains to be seen.
For now, though, we’ll conclude that Nokia’s future strategy involves connecting subscribers with no Web access to data services via SMS. Emerging markets in Asia Pacific and Africa will be catered for with a range of dual-SIM devices predicated on ease-of-use, while the high-end will be tackled via a mix of Symbian and WP7 devices, with MeeGo potentially reserved as a test-bed for phone innovations.