By Greg Mills
Formerly the undisputed world leader in cell phones, Nokia is falling on hard times and has seen its market share and stock crash as Apple and Google have surged. Nokia has reportedly spent US$1.5 billion on its proprietary Symbian OS only to see it spurned, even in Europe, Nokia’s home ground.
Nokia has been working on a more advanced smart phone OS called MeeGo (something must be lost in the translation) but is hedging its bet looking to sell handsets that run Windows 7 and even Android. Nokia hired a former Microsoft executive, Stephen Elop who has overseen the decline. Talk about injecting the wrong DNA.
The distinction here is that dumb phones are slowly losing ground as smartphones become cheaper. The price spread on dumb phones and smartphones has recently almost been erased as the competition in the smartphone market has washed out the less desirable phones.
Android and Windows 7 phones are now around $100 with a new two-year contract or available with a “buy one get one free” program. Dumb phones are mostly free with the same contract. That makes the additional money required to get into the smartphone thing a no-brainer for people wanting to move up to a better experience with their phones.
Nokia’s decline isn’t so dramatic in the dumb phone market, but everyone knows smartphones are certainly the future of the industry. Without a valid competitor to iPhone, handset makers are out of luck and they know it. What is interesting is that Microsoft is living in a dream land where various handset makers, including Nokia, have launched or are considering launching Windows 7 phones. They want us to think it is because Windows 7 is so good, while the truth of the matter is that there is genuine fear that Apple is going to crush Android in court.
Every handset manufacturer has received notice that Apple is suing them over the touch screen features that make Android so iPhone like. If Android goes down, and there isn’t another touch screen OS they can use to power their phones, GAME OVER, Apple has won.
I suspect Microsoft will also see Federal lawsuits filed soon over aspects of the Windows 7 smartphone OS that also violate Apple patents. When that happens, Nokia may well be glad they have been working on their own smartphone iOS.
One of the problems with reverse engineering something like the iPhone and iOS is that the pendency of patent is such that it is hard to know what feature or engineering solution is going to be covered by a pending patent. There is a period of time that pending patents are not public information. During that period development of similar devices and operating system compilation may well be based upon material that is already claimed by Apple and is a show stopper down line.
I expect the patent suit fallout to devastate Android this year. The combination of the marketing blitz where Apple begins to offer the iPhone to new carriers and the infringement suits to come up soon are sure to change the landscape in the entire market.
Apple’s year headstart in both the iPhone and iPad isn’t being squandered as the company continues to innovate with real features and desirable aspects the competition can’t match. Apple is set to dominate both the smartphone market and tablet for the foreseeable future.
That’s Greg’s Bite for today.
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He’s working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg’s web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at gregmills.mac.)