Mobile

Nokia focusing on software, not just hardware, to win back U.S. customers

(Update: We’ve received a clarification from a Nokia spokesperson regarding Ojanperä’s comments about Ovi developers. More than 70 Ovi developers have seen more than 1 million downloads, rather than $1 million in revenue, with a handful of them seeing 10 million downloads.)

Mobile phone manufacturer Nokia is shifting its focus to further developing its Symbian operating system in an effort to win back U.S. customers and better compete with iPhone and Android smartphones, according to a company executive.

Nokia had traditionally focused on hardware development, particularly in the “dumbphone” market that has given the company a commanding market share of mobile phone sales for the past several years, said Dr. Tero Ojanperä, executive vice president for services with Nokia’s mobile solutions division.

With the advent of the smartphone — particularly Apple’s iPhone — the game has essentially changed and Nokia has to shift its focus to providing better development tools for its Symbian operating system. Ojanperä made the comments at the GigaOm Mobilize conference in San Francisco today.

“We are seeing a transformation of Nokia into software and services to respond to consumer needs,” Ojanperä said. “That is something  we have been focused on in the last two years, and that’s something Nokia might not have been focused on before that.”

Nokia is providing third-party developers with a suite of new tools such as development kits and analytics to help them develop better apps for Nokia’s Ovi distribution platform. To date, more than 70 Ovi developers have seen more than 1 million downloads of their apps, with a handful of those making more than 10 million, Ojanperä said. Nokia is also working with 91 operators to help find developers and promote more third-party app development on Nokia’s Ovi app distribution platform — including a $10 million competition for app development through AT&T.

While Nokia’s Symbian operating system still holds a commanding market share, a report from Gartner earlier this month indicates that the Google Android operating system will catch up to it by 2014, when about 30 percent of all phones will use the Symbian operating system.

To prepare for the inevitable onslaught, Nokia has shaken things up a bit in the past couple of months. Nokia tapped Microsoft’s Steve Elop as its CEO earlier this month and is also working to develop hardware more suited to a smartphone version of Symbian — namely its N8 smartphone, which is shipping in the next couple of days (though Ojanperä gave GigaOm founder and Mobilize host Om Malik one of the first as a late birthday present on stage).


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