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Samsung and Apple predicted to overtake Nokia in smartphones this quarter

by Scott Bicheno on 13 June 2011, 18:05

Tags: Nokia (NYSE:NOK)

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The joy of getting stoned

There's a certain schadenfreude, bordering on sadism, in mobile phone punditry these days, especially where it concerns Nokia. With every new bit of negative news about the Finnish handset maker comes a fresh wave of derision and indignation, berating Nokia and CEO Stephen Elop for blowing things so badly.

Of course there's more than a smidge of retrospective wisdom in all this. Yes, Nokia didn't see the iPhone coming and went into a state of denial when it did, but the appointment of Elop was a belated response. The many claims in the rantosphere about how he's killing the company are a tad disingenuous, especially if those same people acknowledge Nokia was already in a pickle when Elop took over.

Nokia's current situation seems so clear cut - it's losing market share hand-over-fist and is still months away from launching the WP7 smartphones it hopes will reverse its fortunes - that there's little risk in denouncing the company. And nothing makes an armchair expert feel more fulfilled than a good, shouty condemnation.

On the analytical side it seems to be a race to forecast worse news for Nokia. The latest to speak up was Nomura, which predicted in a research note seen by Reuters that Nokia would not only lose its position as the biggest smartphone vendor by volume this quarter, it will be relegated to third place behind Samsung and Apple.

While predicting the short-term demise of Nokia is nothing special, Nomura is still sticking its neck out a bit by predicting such a rapid transition. The most recent IDC smartphone stats show Nokia still well ahead of Apple, with Samsung way back in fourth. But Samsung's smartphone shipments grew 350 percent year on year, so an extrapolation of that is probably what led to this prediction, coupled with Nokia's recent sales warning.

This may well come to pass, and if Nokia ever does reclaim top spot it's going to be a long road, with a lot more bumps to come. But the Nokia-bashing that will continue as long as it struggles, reminds me a bit of that classic scene in Monty Python's The Life of Brian, when people are queuing up to stone the blasphemer. Elop is going to be denounced no matter what he does for the next few months, so he might as well do exactly what he wants.