Nokia’s new color GPRS, MMS, and Java handsets promise much for a flagging industry. Consumers have been waiting for phones like these to launch before upgrading, causing handset sales to stagnate. At the same time, the roll-out of Nokia’s Series 60 software platform may herald the company’s move towards a software licensing-based business model.
Nokia has unveiled two new youth-oriented handsets, the 3510i and the 3650.
Mobile phone giant Nokia plans to launch two new handsets, the 3510i and the 3650. Both come with Java (J2ME), MMS, GPRS and color screens; the 3650 also has an integrated digital camcorder to capture short video clips and still photos.
It’s high time device manufactures released feature-rich, new handsets, to stimulate the stagnant consumer market. The device lifecycle has increased to approximately 18-24 months over the last year; prior to that, upgrades tended to match the 12-month duration of contract renewals.
Phones simply cannot get much smaller, so the only reason to upgrade is improved technology. But high-tech devices have taken a long time to reach the market, giving consumers little reason to change handsets. These new handsets should cut the lifecycle, driving shipments up.
But the 3650 may have still greater implications for the mobile industry. It’s Nokia’s second device to run the Series 60 software platform – and the first to give it global exposure. Series 60 consists of telephony and PIM (personal information management) applications, messaging clients, browser and a changeable user interface. It runs on the Symbian OS, and has been licensed to Matsushita (Panasonic), Samsung and Siemens.
Nokia hopes to move away from the decreasing margins of manufacturing towards software licensing. Indeed, if it can persuade developers to use the Series 60 software development kit to create new applications for the platform, other manufacturers may have little choice but to license it too. Series 60 could become the de facto standard – like Windows in the PC industry.
What does this mean for other manufacturers? Series 60 licensees risk becoming mere ‘box shifters’ – less than appealing – but non-licensees could be forced into niche positions (rather like Apple). With Microsoft’s Smartphone 2002 platform also in the fray, it will be interesting to see how many manufacturers give up control to the tech heavyweights.
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Related research: Datamonitor, Industry Review: Telecoms – September 2002 (BFTC0771)