April 13, 2011

Nokia Unveils New Enhanced Symbian Phones

Nokia Corp on Tuesday launched two new smartphones that will run on the updated Symbian software, featuring new enhancements and faster Web browsing.

The E6 and X7 have longer battery life, better text input and new Ovi Maps applications with improved search and public transport routes.

The Nokia E6 is aimed at corporate customers, while the X7 is an entertainment-focused device with a 4-inch display developed with gaming in mind.

However, the launch of the two new devices have done little to impress the markets, as Nokia continues to struggle against rival makers, including Apple and Research in Motion Ltd.

More than 200 million phones run on Symbian technology, with more on the way. But some developers see the software as clumsy and dated. At the end of 2010, Symbian was passed by Android as the world's number 1 smart phone software.

But Nokia says its new, faster Symbian software -- called Symbian Anna -- will be available for previously released top models in the coming months. Also Nokia and Microsoft in February announced they would be joining forces to take on major rivals. Nokia said it will use Microsoft's Windows Phone software as the main platform for its smartphones, even as it continues to develop and use the new Symbian software.

Nokia, which claims 1.3 billion daily users of its devices, said it hopes the partnership with Microsoft will lead to capturing the next billion users to join the Internet in developing growth markets.

Despite the latest launch, Nokia will have a tough road ahead.

Nokia's offering was overshadowed by Tuesday's launch of a powerful new handset from Taiwan-based HTC.

HTC, the world's fifth-largest smartphone maker, launched HTC Sensation, offering an entire library of movie and TV shows via a wide screen and a fast 1.2GHz processor important for gaming.

Nokia, which had dumped its once-dominant Symbian software earlier this year after falling behind Apple in the high-end handset market, revitalized the software with its new smartphone launches in a bid to stem customer defections.

But, "The new HTC Sensation phone reflects the mountain Nokia needs to climb to close the hardware and software gap with its rivals," Ben Wood, research director at CCS Insight, told Reuters.

"On the day Nokia unveils the 600Mhz X7 'entertainment phone' it has been trumped by HTC's Sensation which has a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor," he said. Apple's iPhone was using 600MHz two years ago.

The HTC Sensation, which will be aimed at the premium end of the market and will compete with other high-end models such as the iPhone, will operate with Google's Android software, which ended Nokia's Symbian software 10-year reign as the pre-eminent smartphone platform.

For years Nokia has struggled to attract developers to build new offerings, due in part to Symbian's burdensome tools compared to those featured on the iPhone and Android platforms.

Tero Ojanpera, Nokia's services chief, said the company has a target to sell some 150 million Symbian phones in the coming years, before it begins to wind down production. He said daily downloads at Nokia's Ovi Store have grown to 5 million.

In comparison, Apple is expected to sell 150 million iPhones in 2011-2012.

"It's just a bit too late to put Humpty Dumpty back together," Tero Kuittinen, analyst at MKM Partners of Nokia, told Reuters. "Developers are bailing out in droves."

A Reuters poll of 31 analysts showed Tuesday that Nokia's weakening position in the high-end market is expected to drag down its first-quarter earnings per share 29 percent below last year's.

Nokia is scheduled to report January-March earnings by April 21, and it said it would unveil large job cuts stemming from its Microsoft deal in late-April.

The Finnish firm retained its No.1 spot as the world's top mobile phone maker -- which it held since 1998, selling more than 430 million devices (more than its three closest rivals combined). But market share has continued to fall -- from 41 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in the last quarter of 2010.

Also, its smartphone shares plunged to 30 percent at the end of 2010 from 40 percent a year earlier. And to top that off, Nokia's Symbian platform lost the top spot as the world's No.1 software system at the end of last year to Google's Android software, according to Canalys research firm.


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