Friday, 22 July 2011

Nokia, RIM & Google+

It surprises me that Nokia's latest set of poor results have been greeted with such happiness by the markets. A loss of $360Mn and further smartphone share to Apple seems like another nail in their coffin. This time last year I thought that Nokia's position as #1 handset maker was retrievable, but now I'm not so sure. I actually do buy the idea that Windows Phone can be a viable 3rd way against iPhone and Android (how the world has changed - I recall Operators being terrified of Microsoft 5 years ago, now they're willing them on...), however the strategy of announcing Symbian/ Meego's death a year in advance of it's launch seemed utterly crazy.

Perhaps Stephen Elop decided it was best to focus them on one thing and halt the propensity to get distracted that had prevented Nokia succeeding in the preceding years. The trouble is that Nokia's travails are now front page news in the broadsheets, which means that 30-40% of the phone buying population are aware of how inferior its products have become. I know that this is not the mass market, but it is the market for the high Average Selling Price (ASP) devices that Nokia is desperate to sell, as they are by far the most profitable part of the market. Bad times.

RIM is another struggling legacy smartphone provider and seems, like Nokia to be increasingly embattled. It too has failed to produce a viable large screen smartphone and is restricted to the low end of the market. The trouble for RIM is that its core executive users are drifting away into more capable consumer devices - iPhone chief amongst them, as consumerisation begins to take hold in the enterprise. Although Blackberry Messenger is popular amongst teenagers, RIM's grip on the consumer market has always been tenuous...

...and the above makes the Playbook seem like an even more disasterous move. I've been using one for the last fortnight to try it out, so feel able to comment on it. In short, it's too small, too buggy and has no ecosystem of applications to support 2011 business use (here's an excellent run-through of it's issues). The lack of an email application is an unforgiveable omission and demonstrates how out of touch RIM have become. Frankly, it's a total disaster for either business or consumer use and it doesn't surprise me that RIM are rumoured to be considering terminating it.

I thought I'd end on a positive note. I've also been playing with Google+ for a couple of weeks and it's excellent. Much better than Facebook for my needs, mainly since it's not saturated with rubbish applications and poorly targeted adverts. Circles is a simple and sensible idea and the clean interface on browser and phone is great.

It occured to me last night that perhaps we're about to see the natural decline of Facebook begin at this point. Not to zero, certainly, but as with Yahoo at the start of the search & portal era of the Internet, maybe Facebook was the Alpha of mass market social networking, but by failing to innovate sufficiently it has fallen behind the likes of Twitter and now Google. It could even be true that Facebook was a fad that's now passing. Unlikely, but possible. Glad I didn't buy into it at 100Bn...

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