Series 60, Nokia Strategy Get Updates
By Carlo Longino, Mon Jun 14 15:45:00 GMT 2004

Nokia's added a number of new features to its Series 60 platform, allowing it to better compete with its rivals -- but also revealing a shift in strategy at the company.

Series 60 Second Edition will support both CDMA and WCDMA-GSM devices, with Nokia saying it's the first smartphone platform to do so. But more exciting is the support for multiple resolutions: previously, Series 60 only supported 176x208 screens, but now also supports 208x208, 240x320 (QVGA) and 356x416 in both landscape and portrait orientations. Along with the new resolutions, the platform will support scalable graphics that will allow software developers to create applications that adjust automatically to the different resolutions.

The platform now also features push e-mail, an HTML browser that supports JavaScript, QWERTY input and video calling. The additions to Series 60 will now let the platform better compete against both Microsoft Smartphone and fellow Symbian user interface UIQ, with enhancements seemingly directed at both.

The features gap with Smartphone has been closed -- and Series 60 can now show off its first 3G device, while no MS-powered 3G phones have yet been announced (though there are some CDMA2000 1x handsets). Adding an HTML browser and video call support will strengthen S60's play against MS in the consumer smartphone segment, while Nokia is also playing up the enterprise-focused additions, like push e-mail, QWERTY input and secure connectivity, which should help it make further inroads in the business segment against both Smartphone and UIQ.

These new additions hint at a pretty significant change of tack for Nokia. The company has had well-publicized troubles of late, essentially admitting it was out of step with consumer tastes, and the clamshell handsets the company announced today are a dramatic reversal on its stubborn, even arrogant, unwillingness to consider the design, regardless of consumer demand, for a long time. Nokia has always preferred to dictate taste to the market, or at least attempt to, rather than let market tastes solely dictate its designs -- and to be fair, it was a successful strategy for a number of years.

The company took a hard line with operators as well over handset customization, pitting its brand against theirs in a fight over "owning" the customer. Nokia publicly made up with Vodafone earlier this year, and has softened its stance considerably. Series 60 was up to this point a pretty closed UI -- it supported one screen size and had a very standard set of features across multiple licensees and devices, and much of the differentiation solely cosmetic. But now the platform supports a number of functionalities with licensees given the freedom to choose which they'll use in their devices, rather than just those that Nokia decided would be the only choice.

These three developments taken together reveal a change of heart for the industry giant. The handset market has changed so much in the last few years -- both in terms of devices, and operating systems and user interfaces -- that Nokia's old strategy of leading the market down the path it determined is no longer viable. The company has realized it has to adapt, and embrace openness with consumers, carriers and its licensees.