|(Jodi hilton for the boston globe)|
Nokia looks to get ahead in market
World's biggest cellphone firm to grow in US
At a time when most Americans have a cellphone, it's remarkable how few of those phones are made by Finland's Nokia, by far the world's leading maker. During a recent visit to Boston, Nokia chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo spoke with Hiawatha Bray about his company's big plans for the US market, as well as the future of wireless broadband data services and cellphone gaming.
Nokia has 40 percent of the world's cellphone market, but just 6 percent of the US market. How could that happen?
It's quite useful to remember here the nature of the US market. We are only ramping up now our presence with Verizon. So the market that has been open to us has not been 100 percent of the market, but has been about 50 percent.
But is Nokia now getting more aggressive in the US?
We are investing more in the US market. We are expanding our research and development activity in San Diego. We've got lots of people there designing phones now that are specific to the US needs and the US market.
Sales of smartphones like the Apple iPhone have been booming. Are all cellphones destined to become little handheld computers?
There are different consumer segments that prefer different types of phones. Some people are happy with the basic communication functionality. Voice is enough for some people. Then there are some other people who really want to explore the different functionalities that are available. We need to be able to offer solutions to all of these people. One size will not fit all. Hence our strategy is to offer phones to all consumer segments, in all markets. In that way, our strategy basically differs from the strategies of the competition, who typically are targeting or concentrating on some segments or areas or price points in the marketplace. We will go for all markets, all price points, all segments. We are the market leader in smartphones. Our approach is based on the Symbian operating system. We are now, together with our partners, making it fully open . . . to everybody who wants to use the Symbian operating system.
It sounds similar to Google's strategy of introducing the Android operating system for phones, then encouraging developers to write software for it.
We have had that for 10 years. Definitely, we are ahead.
Cellphone carriers offer 3G data services, but even faster 4G is on the way. The two leading 4G technologies are WiMax and Long Term Evolution, or LTE. Which one is Nokia backing?
We are supporting LTE . . . that remains a core investment to us. But having said that, we are also supporting other technologies that will have a major position in the marketplace. As a market leader, you need to be somewhat agnostic. If there's a major market, you should enter and make the best out of it.
How long before we see widespread use of LTE?
We are not too far from that. We can look at LTE as starting to happen in the early part of next decade.
But WiMax is already being deployed in the United States by Sprint. How does it stack up against LTE?
Both are relevant technologies that will solve many communications needs. So in that way I would not rank them. We do have WiMax technologies. We have invested in WiMax technologies. All markets, all price points, all segments - we will go.
Could LTE or WiMax become substitutes for existing wireline-based broadband services?
The consumer, at the end of the day, doesn't care whether it's wireless or wireline.
A few years ago, your company's N-Gage gaming phone was a failure. But you're still interested in turning the phone into a major game platform. How will you do it?
We've got N-Gage alive as a software approach. You have N-Gage in many of our phones. We will enable many of our phones to do gaming. That's a different type of approach that is based more on software and applications, as opposed to having a specific terminal for gaming needs. In that way we can penetrate a much bigger market. It's a much more comprehensive gaming strategy, and we definitely see a lot of opportunity in mobile games. We have been investing quite a lot in the area, and will continue to do so.