Nokia to Fight Back in Smartphones, but Without the Android OS

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While Nokia continues to struggle in the US mobile market, the Finnish-based company has voiced plans to “fight back” in the smartphone space, and it won’t be adopting Google’s Android OS for any of its phones.

“I am committed, perhaps even obsessed, with getting Nokia back to being number one in high-end devices. Achieving this will require performance and efforts over and above the norm,” wrote Anssi Vanjoki, head of a newly created Solutions unit at Nokia, in a recent blog post called “The Fightback Starts Now.”

Despite the widening popularity of Android as an alternative application development platform to Apple’s highly successful iPhone , the Android OS is not part of Nokia’s roadmap, according to the new appointee.

“Symbian and MeeGo are the best software for our smartest devices. As such, we have no plans to use any other software. Despite rumors to the contrary, there are no plans to introduce an Android device from Nokia,” he wrote.

Wireless Modem Deal Another Sign of Nokia’s Urgency
Only days after Vanjoki’s post, Nokia raised $200 million by selling off its wireless modem business to Japanese semiconductor manufacturer Renesas. The deal with Renesas calls for 1,100 Nokia R&D staffers to be transferred to Renesas, in addition to an undisclosed number of patents around wireless modem technology.

This deal hardly represents the first time that Nokia has switched gears over the years. Originally established in 1865 as a paper mill, Nokiia has also played in myriad other industries, including cable, rubber, TVs, aluminum, and even footwear. Yet the selloff of Nokia’s wireless modem arm seems to be another sign of the urgency of Nokia’s intentions around catching up in smartphones.

Nokia Strives To Do Better in the U.S.
Although Nokia continues to dominate the world cell phone market, the Finnish company has kept lagging farther behind in the U.S. In one recent survey, for example, comScore ranked mobile phones based on their share of usage by current mobile subscribers aged 13 and over. For the three-month period ending April 30 of this year, Nokia fell 1 percentage point from January of this year to an 8.1% U.S. share, behind Samsung at 22.1%, LG at 21.8%, Motorola at 21.6%, and Research in Motion (RIM) at 8.4%.

Some analysts place the blame on Nokia’s long-time refusal to go along with the desire of U.S. carriers for control over how cell phones look and behave. Nokia lost out before, for example, by clinging to a candy-bar-style form factor when U.S. consumers and phone companies started to prefer flip phones. Also, most Nokia phones have been designed to operate on the global standard, GSM, instead of the dominant U.S. standard, CDMA.

In recent years, Nokia has been singing a somewhat different tune, opening and maintaining offices in the U.S. to be close to the offices of AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA have all been selling Nokia feature phones.

New Nokia Smartphones
Yet Nokia has had little success bringing its best smartphones to U.S. carriers. Among the few exceptions to this are the Nokia E73 Mode recently released by T-Mobile and the Nokia E71x from AT&T.

These models include an HTML Web browser; GPS turn-by-turn voice navigation; e-mail and messaging; video sharing; and downloadable tools, games, and other apps.

For the most part, though, U.S customers interested in Nokia’s smartphones had to buy them directly from Nokia, either at a Nokia retail store or over the Web, at unsubsidized pricing that might amount to $500 to $600.

In his blog post, Nokia’s Vanjoki said that Nokia plans to release the Nokia N8, the first Nokia smartphone based on the Symbian 3 OS, over the coming months. “We also plan to deliver our first MeeGo device this year,” he noted. Vanjoki did not say if or when these new smartphones will be offered through U.S. wireless carriers.




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