Nokia's missed smart device opportunity

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
25 Jul 2012

This is the next great mobile software battleground, the platform that will enable even the most basic handset or tablet to sport a full range of functionality and applications, via the browser and web standards like HTML5. Firefox Mobile, Google Chrome OS and many others are pursuing this massive potential user and developer base. Nokia could have led that charge and gone a long way to compensating for its missteps in the current wave of smartphones.

It had Trolltech, creator of the Qt cross-platform devekopment platform – one of Nokia‘s most significant ever acquisitions, but its potential subsequently thrown away amid the shift to Windows Phone. It also had Maemo, which got merged into MeeGo and then sidelined into an open source project and the Tizen initiative (which is spearheaded by Samsung, not Nokia). This was an early example of the new breed of cloud-oriented, slimline Linux OSs. And it also had Meltemi, a project to develop an even slimmer, simpler Linux browser/OS for featurephones, a web-based successor for the Series 40 base.

These technologies could have combined with Nokia's natural strengths in emerging economies, and its close attention to creating local language apps and content suited to those markets – something largely ignored by the traditional smartphone majors like Apple. All that could have ensured that the mass market mobile web experience of the coming years would belong to Nokia, and be defined by it, carving out a new sphere which was not dependent on the successes or failures of its Windows strategy at the high end.

Nokia heirs

Instead, it has cast aside those jewels and passed the baton to Firefox, Google and others. But there are many other projects in the works, hoping to steal some of the thunder, including some which have emerged from Nokia itself. Last week, we heard about Jolla, a Finnish start-up founded by former Nokia engineers, which is continuing to evolve MeeGo as a mobile OS, separate from the Tizen initiative (which combines MeeGo and another Linux platform, LiMO, and is hosted by Linux International). Jolla has already signed its first sales and distribution con-tract for handsets running its OS, with Chinese retail chain D.Phone Group.

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