The Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy Tab 10.1, LG Optimus 3D and Sony Ericsson Xperia Play grabbed the big headlines at Mobile World Congress 2011. If you thought CES was fun, the annual Barcelona event will have had early adopters reaching for their wallets and breathlessly hunting for preorder opportunities. Hit the jump for a quick take on news, pending announcements from the major handset providers, and a brief analysis of what it all means for you.
It turns out all the rumors were true. In the wee hours this morning for North America, Nokia made a big announcement in their Capital Market Day conference. Nokia, led by CEO (and former Microsofty) Stephen Elop, has entered into a "strategic alliance" with Microsoft. The deal involves Windows Phone, Xbox Live, and Bing services. What this really means, is that Nokia will be making Windows Phone 7 devices.
For a company trying to reassert its relevance in the cell phone market by going after the high-end smartphone segment, Nokia sure has taken its time getting its E7 out the door. This flagship device is finally available for purchase, provided make your way to Helsinki, Finland or one of Nokia's other flagship stores.
Want to see what the MeeGo OS will look like on a Nokia tablet? So do we, but unfortunately for us all, the leaked photo that's making its way through cyberspace isn't a very good one.
Regardless, this is likely the first shot of the new MeeGo tablet. The forum photo reveals what looks like a 7-inch device with the integrated video player loaded up. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot you can glean from the photo, even after doing our best to clean up the poor exposure. You can make out the Nokia logo and a glossy bezel, and really that's about it.
MeeGo is an open-source mobile OS jointly developed by Intel and Nokia. It merges Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo projects into a single platform the companies hope to see employed in everything from netbooks and TVs to in-car devices and tablets.
As Nokia struggles to remain relevant in a competitive mobile handset market, one thing that isn't helping is the prominence of counterfeit cell phones. According to Nokia, as many as one out of every five, or 20 percent, of all cell phones around the world are unlicensed knockoffs, Reuters reports.
"It is mostly China-originated, but it is global. It is not only in Asia, but also in Latin America and even in some parts of Europe," said Esko Aho, a member of Nokia's executive board."
Nokia isn't the only company to complain about forgery in foreign markets. As The Inq points out, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer last year complained about the impact of counterfeit software originating from China. As it pertains to cell phones, the Chinese government has been stepping up its efforts to curtail the problem.
"Recent developments indicate [Beijing] is beginning to take seriously the long-festering problem of smuggled handsets and counterfeit handsets, a thorny issue that not only undercuts the tax revenue but also tarnishes China's image abroad," market research firm iSuppli told TGDaily back in July 2010.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Nokia has unexpectedly, and at the last minute, cancelled the US launch of the X7 smartphone. The device was apparently slated for a big announcement with AT&T as the exclusive partner at Mobile World Congress in February. This isn't just another phone for Nokia, the X7 was to be the first US exclusive launch of a device since former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop took the reins of the faltering company.
Sources said that Nokia decided to pull the device for fear that it wouldn't receive marketing and subsidy dollars from AT&T. This leaves Nokia with the N8 as it's only modern flagship phone, and there is no carrier support for the device in the US, despite it having a versatile penta-band UMTS radio. Clearly, the US market is a sore spot for Nokia.
It could be that Nokia is just biding its time until their next gen software platform, MeeGo, is ready for use on phones. Symbian is seen as clunky and old-fashioned by many in the industry. Even if Nokia has a plan, the US market isn't going to wait forever. iOS and Android are already claiming users as their own in droves.
Nokia's music subscription service was seen as an iTunes competitor when it launched in 2008. Now here we are just a few years later, and Nokia has made to call to discontinue the service, branded as either Comes with Music or Ovi Music Unlimited, in all but a few regions. Nokia will continue offering 12 month subscriptions in China, India and Indonesia, and 6 month subs in Brazil, Turkey and South Africa. As for those that have bought into the service in other places, they will still have access to tunes until their current subscription is up. Then only previously downloaded tracks will be accessible.
Nokia was fairly upfront about the issues associated with the service citing a lack of traction in most markets. Many point to problems with the service at the fundamental level. The subscriptions service was only available on some phones, most of which were running older hardware. The songs were also DRM-encumbered, making them playable only on a single phone. "The markets clearly want a DRM-free music service," said a Nokia spokesperson. Nokia still has a DRM-free Ovi Music store, but that will be of little comfort to those few that had gotten used to the all you can eat version.
Take this with a grain of salt, folks. But Unwired View is reporting that Nokia may be in talks with Microsoft about making Windows Phone 7 devices. The news comes via mobile reporter Eldar Murtazin, who has a track record of being right about these things. Te be clear, the rumored talks are not regarding an exchange of technology, but rather Nokia hardware with Microsoft Software.
Nokia has been pulling back on Symbian in recent months, and their efforts with Meego still seem a long way from producing a viable product. Perhaps a sweet deal from Microsoft could coax the Finnish company out of their software safe-zone. There is no guarantee the Nokia-Intel Meego project would go away if this deal happened. In fact, WP7 devices could just be more of a stopgap measure.
We've always liked Nokia's hardware, but the software is usually lacking. Would you be interested in a Nokia-built Windows Phone 7 device?
The long-time Finnish maker of mobile phones, Nokia, announced today that they are preparing to reduce their workforce, according to Reuters. The cuts will start with 800 in Nokia's home market of Finland. Overall, the company expects to eliminate 1800 jobs worldwide. This total number was announced back in October, but it was not clear at the time where the cuts would come from.
Observers suspect that many of the job losses are due to the de-emphasis of Symbian development. The layoffs are expected to go into effect in January. These employees aren't being completely cut loose, though. Nokia has agreed to provide severance packages equal to 5-15 months of salary. While some of Nokia's recent decisions leave us scratching our heads, it's never good news to hear about tech layoffs. Do you think this says anything about Nokia's future?
Google's Andy Rubin Tweeted today that the company is seeing over 300,000 phone activations each day. This figure is higher than Apple and RIM both. It is even in the ballpark of the highest numbers Nokia have ever announced for the Symbian platform. Let's also remember that all these Android phones are certifiable smartphones. Some Symbian handsets are inexpensive commodity devices.
To put this another way, Google is seeing nearly 10 million new Android activations per month. Apple is currently riding high on 14.4 million new iPhone activations in an entire quarter. It was only a few months ago that Google told us they were seeing about 200k activations per day. A 50% rise in that time is astounding. At this rate, Android may soon own the lion's share of the mobile OS market.