Nokia Prepping iPhone Competitor, Hates On Apple - InformationWeek

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4/8/2008
09:43 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Nokia Prepping iPhone Competitor, Hates On Apple

During a recent presentation, Nokia let slip some shots of a project it has dubbed "Tube". Tube, which looks strikingly like you-know-what, will offer a touch-based user interface and is set to go head-to-head with Apple's little darling. On top of that, Nokia dissed on Apple's sales volumes, claiming that it shipped 6 million devices "overnight."

During a recent presentation, Nokia let slip some shots of a project it has dubbed "Tube". Tube, which looks strikingly like you-know-what, will offer a touch-based user interface and is set to go head-to-head with Apple's little darling. On top of that, Nokia dissed on Apple's sales volumes, claiming that it shipped 6 million devices "overnight."It's kind of hard to argue with that one, but since there are a few qualifying factors, I will anyway. First, the bulk of Nokia's "shipments" were likely entry-level phones sent to emerging markets or midrange phones for the average user around the world. It sells fewer of its high-end N Series devices, which are actually in the same playing field as the iPhone. It's true that the N95 has been a smash hit for the world's No. 1 maker of mobile phones, but I haven't seen sales figures that show it has sold 4 million (or 6 million, as Forum Nokia's Tom Libretto claims) units worldwide. Remember, the iPhone costs $400 and $500 now, and the N95, even in its cheapest iteration, still runs more than $600. The newly released N95 8 GB costs nearly $800. Price elasticity still exists for some.

Price aside, Nokia is late -- really late -- to the touch game here. Nearly every other major manufacturer has a touch-enabled device already in the market, including: HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and, er, Apple. (RIM is behind, too.)

At Mobile World Congress I was able to see a demonstration of the coming touch-enabled version of its S60 platform (see video here). The world's leading smartphone OS is good, but it badly needs a usability upgrade. The Touch version of it takes the OS about halfway through what it needs to be better, but some things are still lacking. Nokia hasn't said when this touch platform will be available, and it certainly didn't say when the Tube (what an awful name, BTW) would be available, either.

Since Nokia tends to announce major phones six to nine months before they will be available, I would say we're not going to see the Tube anytime soon. This gives Apple a serious chance to get its 3G iPhone into the market (which The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg predicts we'll see in about 60 days), and get its application developers up to speed. Then it will really begin to prove a serious contender in the smartphone segment.

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