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Tet-a-tet. Mads Winblad, Nokia Go to Market Vice-President - on the future of NSeries

E.M. It was very interesting to get some hands-on experience with the 5800 Tube today, but after all its not an N-Series device. In fact, N-Series phones used to be the most technologically advanced solutions around, but now, a much more affordable device, the 5800 Tube, holds its own against them both in terms of music and functionality. Why?

M.W. The N-Series is our key brand for technology leaders, and this kind of consumers in that end. But what we also said, when we introduced the N-Series, and ushered in the concept of multimedia computers, is that we would bring the multimedia computer functionality to the mass-market in the mobile phone space. And this is what we are doing right now with the 5800 Tube.

So its a continuous evolution of our portfolio, because the 5800 is an S60-based device among all other things. But at the same time we keep pushing upwards with our solutions for technology leaders, like with the N85 in the N-Series range, and of course you will see more N-Series devices of this calibre in the future.

E.M. Speaking of N-Series devices, these days you have got the whole market covered, but, on the other hand, you offer no phones at the 250 price point or lower. Will that be the bottom line for the N-Series, or you are going to introduce even more affordable solutions down the road?

M.W. No, N-Series will never roll down to the mass-market. We want N-Series at the top of the pyramid, whether its 250, thats not so important. We want to continue arming these phones with new features, materials and top-notch displays, then weve got everything in place, we will scale it up in volume and slash the prices. Thats why we are now invading the mobile phone market with this affordable touchscreen device. So yes, this is a clear part of our strategy.

E.M. Nokia calls the S60 Touch a truly open platform for third-party developers does this mean you will roll out an SDK alone, or you are moving towards open-source software?

M.W. As you know, we have acquired the rest of the Symbian OS, and together with the whole industry, all the key players in the hardware manufacturing side, and all the key players in the operator side, we have decided to turn Symbian and Series 60, into a non-profit organisation, and bring Symbian, and Series 60 platforms to open-source development this trend will start unfolding early in 2009. This means there will be a non-profit foundation, which will run Symbian, and Series 60 for all the players in the market, and from there on, there will be open SDKs, and all these things. We already have it for Series 60, all that will be open to the whole market later on.

E.M. Speaking of other S60-based products - the Samsung INNOV8 is the most advanced S60 smartphone to date, offering FP2 software, great OLED display, 8 MP camera, etc. Dont you think that its somewhat abnormal that Nokia wasnt the first company to roll out such a powerhouse?

M.W. I dont want to comment about our competitors device, but over at Nokia we already try to ensure a very, very broad implementation of our features, and also the right timing. Its important that we introduce a product (say with an 8 MP camera) in a way when consumers will be able to really appreciate its performance and aesthetics. Sometimes these decisions hinge on whether we think therell be a better version of whatever available on the market next year or not.

E.M. What do you think about the differentiation between E-Series and N-Series? Software aside, these two line-ups are somewhat different in terms of design as well that is, the E-Series phones sport a lot of metallic accents, whereas the N-Series devices are made entirely of plastic.

M.W. If you look at our new N-Series devices, youll notice that they are moving in the same direction. So, you were right in the past that there was a difference in the way of materials, but these days the mix of materials is pretty much the same. But this issue also has got a lot to do with product costs.

E.M. The N85 comes equipped with a large and bright OLED screen, but the downside to it is that its lifetime doesnt exceed 1000 hours or so. Have you tested it in the labs already? Will it be enough for most users out there?

M.W. I dont have the details myself, but I know our R&D guys are looking into these things.

E.M. There were some speculations before the Tubes launch event that itd be tagged as an XpressMedia device, but as it turns out, its an XpressMusic solution. Is there any chance we will see some of these XpressMedia offerings in the future, or these are mere speculations?

M.W. I dont know where you got this XpressMedia thing, but it has always been the plan that it should be a multimedia device that is, focused on music, hence its XpressMusic tag. We will have other devices, which will have other highlights, but I have never heard of XpressMedia.

E.M. What segmentation do you use for the N-Series portfolio in the way of age brackets?

M.W. So, age is difficult, we have our segmentation model in place, and clearly, N-Series target power users, those who make use of a variety of features on a daily basis. Not necessarily young people or someone past their thirties. But at the same time, N-Series audience also includes business-savvy users who demand email functionality, etc. So, its not only a matter of age, but I think its more like 22-45 age bracket, and naturally, we know that many people outside this specific group use N-Series devices as well.

E.M. Do you believe that the 5800 XpressMusic will top all sales charts during the Christmas season? And, more importantly, arent you worried about running out of stock during the last months of 2008?

M.W. Yes, I hope it will, but we are not going to disclose anything about our plans. Its true, however, that we have huge expectations for this device - it really brings all these different services and Touch UI together in a very nice way to the market.

E.M. Speaking of the Russian market and Nokia Comes With Music in particular Nokia havent announced this service yet; do you have any specific dates on when itll go live?

M.W. The challenge we have in Russia is the Cyrillic character set - we are working on that, so we do everything possible to make it go live as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I cant disclose any specific dates. But even these days you can still you the 5800 Tube for music downloads, so itll kick off in Russia even without our music store.

E.M. And the last question with the 5800 youve established the bottom-line price for this type of phones, so all other makers will try to remain competitive, and this will work to your advantage. However, what about your next step in this field? Apparently, the next phone of this breed will be more feature-packed and therefore will come with a heftier price tag. With this in mind, do you believe people will be eager to pay more for it, even though they will have a cheaper alternative in the form of the 5800 Tube?

M.W. I think that if the solution and the consumer experience are right, people will be willing to pay a premium. As far as this whole Internet service environment is concerned, the users are kings they decide what works, and what doesnt. When we are good enough at listening to them, and implement what they would like to have and so on, I believe they are willing to pay for it. Same for music people get legal music tracks, even though they have to pay for them, while most of them are out there on peer-to-peer networks up for grabs for free. They are eager to pay a fair price for music, so as not to associate themselves with something illegal. Nevertheless there will always be people who want to crack everything and do all these things.

E.M. But, on the other hand, people in some countries cant get legal music anywhere, like in developing countries in Africa, for example, they have no way to enjoy what Nokia Comes With Music has to offer, and

M.W. No, dont say that, because we are actually already doing that in so many of these countries, where they are locally bundling music into the devices, and people are happily paying for it, and it makes sense, so these things are happening.

E.M. So, thats about it, thank for you this interview

M.W. Thank you too.

 

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 15 October 2008

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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