Nokia is introducing the Nokia 500, but will consumers purchase a smartphone running Symbian, which Nokia plans on replacing with Windows Phone?
Earlier this year, Nokia announced it would adopt Windows
Phone as its primary software platform, in the process abandoning its homegrown
Despite the clock ticking on the latter, though, the Finnish
phone maker seems determined to keep producing smartphones that run
Symbian-case in point, the newly launched Nokia 500, which will feature a
3.2-inch capacitive touch display (with a resolution of 640 by 360 pixels), a
5-megapixel camera and a 1GHz processor. Nokia claims the smartphone will
offer some five to seven hours' worth
of talk time, 450-plus hours in standby
mode, and around 35 hours' worth of music playback.
Complementing that hardware is the Symbian Anna OS, whose
revamped user interface includes split-screen messaging, baked-in social
networking and what Nokia claims
is a "better" browser.
Symbian isn't the only homegrown operating system Nokia is
loading onto new devices. In June, the company introduced the Nokia N9, which
runs a MeeGo operating system also slated for mothballing alongside Symbian.
With a curved 3.9-inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) screen and a body
engineered from a single piece of polycarbonate, the smartphone is something of
a proof-of-concept that Nokia can produce a higher-end, handsome device-as well
as a possible indicator of the company's thinking when it comes to Windows
"Innovation is the heart of our strategy, and today we took
important steps to demonstrate a new pace of innovation at Nokia," Nokia CEO
Stephen Elop wrote in a June 20 statement tied to the N9's unveiling. "It's the
beginning of a new era for Nokia."
Soon after the introduction of the N9, Elop offered an
audience a glimpse of what looked like one of the new devices running Windows
Phone. The question is whether the Nokia 500 will follow suit as a possible form factor
for Nokia's Microsoft-powered phones.
Faced with a soon-to-be-mothballed set of operating systems
and immense competition from the likes of Apple's iPhone, Nokia has been
bleeding market share. But for those
questioning Nokia's current strategy-i.e., announce the aforementioned deal,
and then wait a few quarters until releasing Windows Phone devices into the
market-at least one analyst is suggesting the Finnish phone maker really didn't
have a choice.
"Nokia had to announce early its adoption of the Windows
Phone platform because it had to take important cost write-downs in R&D
that would have been impossible to hide," IDC analyst Al Hilwa wrote in a July
25 research note.
Even if Microsoft and Nokia had managed to keep the deal a
secret, he added, Nokia would have still faced significant declines in its
smartphone market share. "For one thing, the
Symbian R&D albatross would have continued to hobble Nokia's profitability
and its ability to make change," he wrote. "For another thing, the platform dithering and
in-fighting would have continued and leaked out anyway."
Nokia can only hope that its next generation of smartphones
will change its fortunes. In the meantime, devices like the N9 and the Nokia
500 offer a window-or Windows-into its thinking.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter