What Can Nokia do to trump Apple’s iPhone

Written by Amit Agarwal on Dec 19, 2008

I have been an iPhone user for almost 10 months now and have been thinking about getting a new phone. So when I started looking around for new models, I was amazed to see how none of the available phones would satisfy my requirements. Not even the super Nokia N97.

I am not sure if my usage pattern is unique but I tend to use my iPhone as a music player (podcasts mostly) more than as a communication device. My other iPhone activities would include checking emails, using Google Reader and Twitter (Oh yeah, follow me @acmhatre).

Back in 2005, Sony was the first company to introduce the concept of a walkman phone. Nokia soon followed Sony but both these companies faltered on the software and that’s the secret of iPhone’s success. What makes the iPhone so unique and loveable is not the highly responsive touch screen interface or the good looks – it’s the backbone – the iTunes software.

Unlike the half-baked software developed by Nokia and Sony, iTunes can hold its ground to be used a primary music management software so anything one does in iTunes gets synced to their iPhone. Similarly, iPhoto a great photo management tool and synching with an iPhone is a breeze. Before iPhone was introduced, nobody even talked about updating the firmware on a cell phone because it was just too difficult to be done by an average user.

I am not sure if Sony has the energy to stage a come back but I can see Nokia competing with Apple/ I am not taking about the revenue numbers or number of handsets sold. We all know that Apple is far from even competing on those grounds. I am talking about mindshare and perception based competition.

So what should Nokia do? How about Nokia using SongBird, a free and open source music management software from the Mozilla foundation to do everything that iTunes does for iPhone. It’s being positioned as an iTunes killer anyway.

Nokia, at least for its high end phones, should look into developing plug-ins that’ll allow people to manage and synchronize not only music but videos, photos and as a platform to provide firmware updates to Nokia users. Nokia needs to give its users a single point of interaction with their devices. Nokia should do negative of iPhone and do just exactly opposite. The iPhone App store is a closed environment; Nokia should open up a Symbian Appstore on SongBird and integrate it with Ovi. The solution just seems so obvious but sometimes it just is that obvious!

The writer, Aditya Mhatre, is based in Mumbai and hosts Indicast, a popular audio-video podcast show from India.

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