Lord of the rings

Eight out of 10 mobile users in ME carry a Nokia. CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo says he wants to make it 10 out of 10.

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By  Andrew White Published  September 13, 2007

If Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo has had a long morning, he's not showing it. Hours after touching down in Dubai, he has already held a series of key meetings with execs from all over the Middle East and Africa, officially opened Nokia's new regional headquarters, and is now facing a barrage of questions from journalists flown in from Iran, Morocco and Nigeria. However, when a shrill tone rings out from somewhere in the throng, he is on his feet in a flash.

"That's not a Nokia phone!" he exclaims, mock outrage writ large across his face. "Find him!"

Increasingly, we believe that the world will come to see Nokia not just as the leading device manufacturer, but also as the leading mobile internet company.

Our culprit, a smart-suited hack from Tunisia, knows the game is up. After all, it doesn't take the CEO of Nokia to identify one of the company's ringtones. Such is the ubiquity of the Finnish brand, most people can pick an imposter within half a jangling bar.

Later, after the offending journo has (presumably) been bundled out of the building and into a pair of concrete shoes, Kallasvuo is a little more relaxed. It helps, perhaps, that I wave my Nokia in his direction - a white flag in front of the man who makes sure that people are connected across the globe.

"There's no magic to it," he smiles, helping himself to a well-earned cup of coffee. "You go after different markets, segments, price points and product types, and you take as much as possible. It's simply a lot of hard work, going for every opportunity, and reaping the benefits."

When the Nokia Corporation was first formed in 1967, it was certainly as an equal opportunities manufacturer - its output consisting of paper products, bicycle tyres, and Wellington boots, among other things. 40 years later, and the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer is also one of the world's largest network companies, through its 2006 merger with Siemens. Thanks to the convergence of modern technology - and the complexity of the modern mobile phone - Nokia is also able to count itself as the world's largest camera manufacturer, and the producer of more music devices than any other company on the planet. Some benefits.

A lead is there to be protected, and while Apple is grabbing all the headlines with its ultra-hip iPhone, it should come as no surprise that Nokia has also been busy. The Finnish giant struck deep into enemy territory last month, with the launch of Ovi - a new brand through which Nokia intends to reposition itself as an internet company, offering music download services, games, maps and a host of other online applications.

"We are very excited about the future of Ovi as a way for the 900 million people who today are using Nokia devices, to experience the full range of what mobility and the internet has to offer," explains Kallasvuo. "Increasingly we believe that the world will come to see Nokia not just as the leading device manufacturer, but also as the leading mobile internet company."

To boost its chances, Nokia has launched several new phones, including the N81, a flagship music phone that aims to be a major competitor to the iPhone. The company also said it was planning to launch handsets in 2008 which would include touch screens much like those on the iPhone, and the head of Nokia's multimedia business hinted heavily that the company was deliberately copying Apple's popular design features.

If there are similarities, there are also differences, insists Kallasvuo. In a bold step, Nokia has taken the decision not to impose playback restrictions on music downloaded from Nokia's music store. By contrast, Apple's approach - which dictates that iTunes tracks can only be played with Apple hardware - has drawn criticism and a flurry of test cases around the globe.

"It's not Nokia-exclusive at all - the whole thinking here is openness," he explains. "Our systems are open to everybody, and we are not closing the door to anybody. Some other people have chosen exactly the opposite, saying ‘this is proprietary, this is mine only'. It's a vertical solution."

Nokia's thinking also runs to a reprieve for the company's much-maligned N-Gage gaming platform. First launched four years ago, the service failed to convince gamers to trade in their PlayStations. Yet while Kallasvuo is adamant that 2007 does not mark a relaunch for N-Gage, gaming is firmly back on Nokia's agenda. This time, the dedicated N-Gage gaming device has been rendered obsolete by advancements in mobile phone technology.

"The N-Gage strategy was based on a gaming device when it was initially launched, because at that point in time, technology did not allow us to make any N-series phone a gaming device," recalls Kallasvuo. "Now, the phone has really taken a leap in that every high-end device can be a gaming device, if you simply put in certain key functionality.

3659 days ago
Neil

Nokia is truly a fantastic phone (in my view) & this article certainly made for interesting reading! Thanks!

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