Tag Archives: RIM

Can Nokia manage a second shot at the US market?

I’m going to interrupt the Cloudy Days for Data series again to muse this time about marketing…

I’ve been very pessimistic on Nokia’s future prospects in the United States but there’s no distinction in that stance; so has just about every other pundit.  It seems like every time Nokia had something novel to offer, whether it be new devices like the promising internet tablets or a potentially hot service like Ovi, the ball wound up fumbled… sometimes by design.

A large part of that design was the stubborn insistance on model numbers over names, despite the allure shown by competing products like the iPhone and Blackberry.  It’s been long known that this sort of branding resonates loudly with US citizens, so when Nokia portfolio manager Ira Frimere declares in a recent Computerworld article:

“I’ve learned it’s not what I like, but what my customer likes,” he said.

…I have to wonder when this epiphany occurred for him.  No offense meant to Mr. Frimere, but I recall numerous conversations in Nokia US offices over this subject and that was the one consistent theme behind them all.  It did not matter what Nokia executives thought; wrapping product branding and marketing strategies around customer needs and wants is paramount.  Marketing 101.

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The Incredible Shrinking Nokia

Like one ex-colleague, I wonder what Nokia will look like when the economic dust settles.  I’m told that the last remaining Irving (Dallas, Texas area) building is experiencing a sort of settling– dwindling employees are being shuffled swiftly downward as lower office space opens up, emptying the upper floors.  My prediction of the site downsizing into a regional sales support office appears to be bearing out.  Where else is this occurring?  Offhand I don’t know… but I keep hearing that global roles are heavily impacted, which continues to confound me.  Is this really signalling a retreat back to Finland?

I still see new openings in other areas, but I remain curious about the overall picture, i.e., what is the loss-to-gain ratio?  When a company leaks employees here and there rather than laying them off wholesale, getting a picture of the headcount becomes difficult.  I’m sure that’s by design in this case.

The question is, can Nokia execute well enough or are too many key employees being let go?  The company now estimates that 2009 will see a 10% reduction in global handset sales.  One could argue that such a drop necessitates an equivalent or at least proportional cut in headcount.  But does that factor in the hoped-for area of growth, Internet services?  The slow rollout and misfires of Ovi.com suggest that the venture suffers a resource issue of some sort.  Is it fully staffed, or just running like a skunkworks project?

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