Do or die
Ailing Finnish mobile phone giant has announced the date for its Nokia World 2011 conference, an event that is arguably the most important in its history.
Last year's event commenced on 14 September, but the 2011 annual jamboree is happening over a month later - 26 October - increasing the possibility that it will host the formal unveiling of Nokia's first Windows Phone 7 offering.
I was at last year's event and, given what has subsequently come to light regarding the cultural reasons behind Nokia's inadequate response to Apple's launch of the iPhone, some of what I heard is more poignant than ever.
The acknowledgement that Nokia had lost the smartphone initiative to Apple, and subsequently Google, was there, but so was denial by the bucket-load. OPK has just been toppled and sales boss Niklas Savander - who is still with the company - drew the short straw to fill his keynote spot.
He soon moved onto all the scrutiny Nokia had been receiving over its smartphone failings, but rather than be contrite, he focused on how many more smartphones Nokia still shifted, compared to Apple or Android. That statement was set to be rendered obsolete within months. He talked about how popular the N8 was, but then contradicted all this bullish talk by announcing "we're back!" effectively conceding Nokia had been struggling.
The keynote from former smartphone boss Anssi Vajnoki was also full of bristling defiance, especially in its defence of Symbian, which he felt was being unfairly maligned. His stance had clearly percolated down to the rest of the company and many other Nokia representatives we met at the event pouted about unflattering comparisons with other smartphone platforms in the press.
But it was already clear that Symbian was unlikely to ever compare favourably to newer, shinier platforms and the N8 just served to emphasise that. Nearly all reviews, including my own, reflected on a nice piece of kit let down by less impressive software. I figured it wouldn't be long before we saw similar handsets running MeeGo, and then Nokia would be back in the smartphone game, but I had underestimated how difficult it is to build a great smartphone platform.
Having said that, when Nokia finally did launch a MeeGo handset, it did end up looking pretty decent, which just adds to the sense of tragedy around new CEO Stephen Elop concluding MeeGo wasn't the answer. If the N9 had been launched at last year's Nokia World, maybe the situation now would be different.
All of which leads me to conclude that this year's Nokia World may well be the most important such event in the company's long history. My assumption is that Nokia will lift the veil on its first WP7 device at the event, and this initial response will be important. On the other hand, if it doesn't announce something pretty damn momentous, the criticism will reach new levels of hysteria.
Nokia keeps saying a WP7 phone will be launched before the end of the year, and it doesn't make sense for that launch to occur anywhere other than Nokia World. Previous events have been held as late as December, so Nokia could have waiter longer if it needed to.
On that note, while looking through the HEXUS archives for Nokia-related stuff, I stumbled across this press release from the 2007 Nokia World, held on 4 December that year. It features a quote from CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, in the year of the iPhone launch, which nicely encapsulates Nokia's hubristic attitude at the time.
"We are at the dawn of a new era in mobile communications driven by the rapid convergence of the internet and mobility, and Nokia is setting the pace of change," said OPK.