Tag Archives: Nokia

As voice calls disappear into the Internet, health care and educational services are where HP’s new Palm OS ‘toy’ may start to make it a lot of money very quickly

Hewlett-Packard’s $1.2 billion purchase of Palm means several things — but the most important ones are not about phones.

Yes, new life for Palm devices means there will be real competition in smartphones, with HP alone pushing operating systems from Google, Microsoft and now Palm (and facing competition from Apple and Nokia). The companies will aim for different market segments, like business, consumer and specialty purposes. Longer term, however, among the phones the fight will be in consumer devices.

But so-called “connected devices,” more than just phones, are the future of hardware, as voice becomes one more asset. Already HP Senior Vice President Todd Bradley is talking about phones, tablets, slates and other kinds of hardware that guarantee Internet connectivity. Voice calls themselves may be disappearing into the Internet, to the consternation of the Verizons, AT&Ts and Sprints, which prefer revenues from separate voice minutes rather than connection charges.

Palm’s backer Elevation Partners championed Palm’s webOS as something that would start in phones but move into all kinds of Internet devices. The first consumer products were the Pre and the Pixi, which were nicely reviewed but had insufficient consumer uptake to get Palm the cash to build more. HP, with $13.5 billion in cash and distribution channels of all sorts, in 170 countries, is not so constrained. (Disclosure: Elevation Partners, which has a stake in Palm, is also a shareholder in Forbes Media.)

“Smartphones are a part of this, but this is really about the Web operating system,” Shane Robison, HP’s chief strategy and technology officer, told Forbes. “It’s a change in our business model to a connected device model.” HP, he said, is assuming a world in which almost everything needs at least the potential to connect to the Internet. Michael Gartenberg, a partner with the Altimer Group, noted that HP’s ownership of its own OS, on several devices, should worry HP’s competitors. The others “have to rely on other people’s platforms to drive their business forward,” he said. “It allows HP to leverage webOS and tie it back to its enterprise and consumer businesses.”

The acquisition is also another great test of HP’s ability to make tech dreams come true–in this case, Palm’s dream of its operating system inside all kinds of machines. Doubtless there are plans for all kinds of new nonphone Internet connection devices inside Palm, and HP’s technologists and manufacturers will have at them at first chance. In his call to analysts Wednesday, Bradley identified vertical markets like health care and education in which devices might soon appear, sold through HP’s partners.

HP will also try to do what Palm could not: excite a global community of software developers for the webOS. While Bradley said Palm has 2,000 applications now, it was unable to get the kind of response from developers that Google has received for its Android OS or that Apple has received for its iPhone and iPad. According to Robison, Palm at last has an attractive set of tools for developers, and HP will begin marketing to them based on HP’s scale. “Developers will go where the volume is,” he said.

Elevation Partners, which is said to have acquired its Palm shares for enough to make a small profit on the Palm deal (but far less than the monster hit it hoped for) may console itself that its vision was correct, even if it lacked the scale and cash to see it through. If so, it will join an impressive crowd. In May 2008 HP bought consulting firm EDS for $13.9 billion, gaining with that the assets of a company called Opsware, originally Loudcloud, Marc Andreessen’s too-early venture into cloud computing. It is now at the heart of HP’s global push in the business of automating large-scale technology operations. Andreessen is now a member of the HP board and as the head of its technology committee doubtless played an important role in the Palm acquisition.

Last November HP purchased Chinese switch company 3Com for $2.7 billion, acquiring little recognized technology in powerful Internet switches that HP hopes will rival Cisco’s stuff. Like Palm and Loudcloud, the Chinese company, with little brand or marketing strength, could not get what it built to sufficient scale. Which is not to say “HP can’t invent.” What it can do is spot opportunities, diamonds in the rough, and put them into a rigorous operational machine. At least, HP shareholders hope so.


Germany, France, Britain want EU action against Iran broadcast bans

Germany, France and Britain have proposed measures against Iran for blocking foreign media broadcasts in a joint letter to other European Union members, the German foreign office said on Wednesday. In the letter, signed on behalf of Germany by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the countries called for the EU to take measures against Iran. The move comes after Iran has blocked numerous foreign radio and television broadcasts via satellite for several months. French daily Le Figaro reported that possible sanctions could include stopping companies such as Siemens or Nokia from delivering technologies to Teheran that allow the interception of emails or mobile phone conversations. A joint declaration could be signed as early as next week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels.


How the smartphone made Europe look stupid

The European giants that pioneered the mobile telecoms industry are now stumbling in the wake of American and Asian rivals

When Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, takes to the stage in Barcelona on Tuesday evening to deliver the keynote address to hundreds of mobile phone industry executives gathered for the Mobile World Congress the industry’s biggest trade show, the message will be clear: well done, Europe, for getting mobile communications this far. We’ll take it from here.

For two decades, Europe’s mobile telecoms sector has considered itself to be a world leader. It had the biggest names, the technological knowhow, the most customers. Over the past year, however, that hegemony has been smashed. At a time when Europe is mired in economic turmoil and ­facing a demographic timebomb, one of its great hopes for fuelling future growth is ­slipping away.

“Europe has become the ‘flyover states’ of the mobile industry,” says a ­senior European executive, referring to the disparaging term used to describe middle America by high-powered business travellers shuttling between California and New York.

“All the service innovation is being done on the west coast of the US, and all the manufacturing and technical innovation is being done in the Far East. All we’re doing is selling other people’s products.”

His customers now care only about access to services such as Google, Facebook and Twitter on their phones, and the devices they covet are the iPhone or the latest BlackBerry, which has proved a great hit with teenagers. This year’s hot handsets, the executive says, are being made by HTC, the Taiwanese manufacturer, which will use this week’s show to unveil its latest devices, featuring Google’s Android software. While Apple lords it over the high end of the market, China’s Huawei and ZTE are creating cut-price smartphones that will democratise the mobile internet in the coming years.

Sensing the change blowing in the wind, even Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, is turning up in Barcelona to front the software group’s latest attempt to break into a market that it was once shut out of by Europe’s gatekeepers, Nokia and Ericsson. As for Apple itself, the iPhone maker would never do anything so vulgar as actually appear publicly at the event, or have a stand in one of the eight exhibition halls; but its executives will be in town, holding meetings behind closed doors with suppliers and networks as it looks for more wireless partners to back its latest invention, the iPad, outside the US.

After a week in which the turmoil in Greece has shown the fragility of the eurozone and a new acronym, “Pigs”, has entered the economic lexicon as a harbinger of doom, the evidence the Mobile World Congress will provide of Europe’s loss of control over the mobile phone industry is a harsh blow.

It leaves European policymakers, many of whom have bought in to the idea that the future lies in the creation of innovative technologies, to pin their hopes on new areas such as green ­energy or fall back on old stalwarts such as biotechnology. But the green sector has yet to prove the breakout ­success that will give Europe its own version of Silicon Valley, while biotech has always been the saviour that never quite seems to arrive. After the dotcom crash at the start of this century, biotechnology was looked to expectantly, especially in the UK, as the next big thing. In America, meanwhile, graduates from Stanford and drop-outs from Harvard were quietly getting on with building Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The impressive lead in mobile communications that Europe once held over the rest of the world was created by the European Union. In the 1980s, when wireless communications went mass-market, America’s Motorola vied with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson for dominance of the nascent global market. Europe’s players were handed the advantage when the EU officially adopted and set aside specific wireless spectrum for a digital mobile technology called GSM.

The first networks appeared in 1991 and overnight the European technology players that had helped create the standard had a huge market. Seeing its success, other countries soon adopted GSM, expanding the market for Ericsson, Nokia and others throughout the 1990s. Even America’s largest network, Verizon Wireless, is switching to the super-fast version of GSM later this year. So where did it all go wrong?

“As soon as the mobile business opened itself up in such a way that internet technology could become available on mobile networks, that was the end,” according to Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms & Media. “Maybe Europe had a chance but it blew it, in my view, because there are too many sets of interests, each so obsessed with their own sphere of influence that they could not co-operate.

“You had operators and device manufacturers never pulling in the same direction, and I cannot see any way in which Europe can regain the ascendancy. Essentially the future of communication services is that people want access to the cloud of services called the internet.”

The industry did see it coming. It tried several times to create a mobile internet that was not going to be beholden to the American giants. In the late 1990s, a pared-down wireless internet service called WAP was being pushed by several GSM operators. Customers, many of whom were used to dial-up internet access, were unconvinced and soon started summing up the service by replacing the “w” with “cr”.

A few years later, O2 tried to create its own mobile web by importing the i-mode standard from Japan. Again, it was a dire failure. When the “true” web started turning up on the next generation of 3G phones, the operators tried to keep their customers within “walled gardens” – as they were called – creating content portals that offered customers what the operator thought was the best of the web. Usage was paltry. Having spent billions buying licences to run 3G services, the operators had to prove to investors that there was consumer appetite for mobile internet services, so they demolished their garden walls.

Ironically, the operators’ initial intransigence over the mobile web brought both Apple and Google into the industry. The former saw a way of bringing the vertically integrated approach that had worked so well in music – where it controls both the device, the iPod, and the store, iTunes – into the mobile market. The latter made its move because it feared that the combined effect of Apple and market leader Nokia could shut it out of the mobile internet altogether.

In fact, Google needn’t have worried about Nokia because the runaway success of the iPhone changed the game. The arrival of the 3G version of Apple’s device a year and a half ago dramatically altered the mobile industry and proved that consumers, given the right device, will do much, much more than use their phone to make calls and send texts.

Nokia is still the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world. But the Finnish giant, a former rubber boot manufacturer whose success created hundreds of millionaires and helped pull the country out of recession when the Soviet Union collapsed, has been sideswiped by the success of Apple and the encroachment of Google’s Android platform. It has been forced to make Symbian, its own software platform, free to developers and handset manufacturers, as Android is, and last month took the desperate decision to give users of its smartphones free access to its satnav services to make its devices as attractive as the iPhone. Only three years ago it spent €6.5bn on the map firm Navteq but it is now effectively giving that intellectual property away as it tries to protect its market share.

The crisis into which Nokia has been plunged by Apple has pushed it into bed with another American giant, Intel. The two companies will use Mobile World Congress to announce new microchips that Nokia hopes will help it to compete with HTC’s latest devices. Apple already has its own in-house chip design team, having bought fellow Californian company PA Semi two years ago.

Ericsson, meanwhile, spun its handset business into a joint venture with Sony. However, after initial success with ­”featurephones” based on Sony’s Cybershot (camera) and Walkman (music)technologies, Sony Ericsson’s share of the billion-device-a-year market has collapsed under the onslaught of Apple and BlackBerry, halving from about 10% three years ago.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, says Olaf Swantee, who runs Orange’s mobile operations across Europe. He reckons that Europe’s big mobile phone operators, such as Orange, Vodafone and O2, have the opportunity to leverage their huge customer service bases to get themselves back into the game.

“Yes, the [US] west coast and Asia have really taken very strong positions,” he admits. “If you take equipment manufacturing, companies like Huawei have grown really strongly and we have seen traditional software manufacturers like Google and Apple enter the mobile market as it becomes a more software-driven environment. But, as the market moves to a more mature phase, what is becoming more and more important is the customer interface.”

The importance of direct customer contact, whether that be through shops or call centres, was proved this year when Google launched its Nexus One mobile phone. It sold it only through its website, and those customers who had problems with the phone had to email Google, rather than talk to its network partner, AT&T. Many found themselves waiting days for issues to be dealt with.

In the race to increase revenues – not least to pay for the network investment required to deal with the traffic generated by devices such as the iPhone – the mobile phone operators have the chance to claw back money from the likes of Apple and Google, which aggregate other people’s content through their iTunes and Android marketplace stores.

“Once the markets top out,” says Patrick Bossert, director of strategy at global billing services expert Convergys, “and growth slows and margins get tighter, then those aggregators will be looking to solutions for local-language customer care and marketing.

“They cannot afford to establish a base in every market in which they operate, but the service providers are already there. They may not have a lot of leverage now but, boy, do they have a lot of assets that are actually quite desirable.”

It’s a theme that the GSM Association, which represents all these networks, will be picking up this week as it tries to wrest some of the initiative back from Google and Apple.

“I don’t feel that we are being left behind, but there are areas that the mobile operators need to address,” says Michael O’Hara, the GSMA’s chief marketing officer. “And getting their assets into the developer world, finding a way to get into the value chain, is really key.”

Being great at customer service is hardly the white heat of technology, but for Europe it might just be the start of some sort of fightback. For now, though, the story is going to be – for home-grown talent, at least – depressingly familiar. As Informa’s Newman warns: “In 2010, Apple is going to make hay. I can’t see anyone catching them up this year.”


Symbian phone operating system goes open source

The group behind the world’s most popular smartphone operating system – Symbian – is giving away “billions of dollars” worth of code for free.

The Symbian Foundation’s announced that it would make its code open source in 2008 and has now completed the move. It means that any organisation or individual can now use and modify the platform’s underlying source code “for any purpose”. Symbian has shipped in more than 330m mobile phones, the foundation says.

It believes the move will attract new developers to work on the system and help speed up the pace of improvements. “This is the largest open source migration effort ever,” Lee Williams of the Symbian Foundation told BBC News. “It will increase rate of evolution and increase the rate of innovation of the platform.” Ian Fogg, principal analyst at Forrester research, said the move was about Symbian “transitioning from one business model to another” as well as trying to gain “momentum and mindshare” for software that had been overshadowed by the release of Apple’s iPhone and Google Android operating system.

Evolutionary barrier

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia bought the software in 2008 and helped establish the non-profit Symbian Foundation to oversee its development and transition to open source. The foundation includes Nokia, AT&T, LG, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone.  The group has now released what it calls the Symbian platform as open source code. This platform unites different elements of the Symbian operating system as well as components – in particular, user interfaces – developed by individual members.

Until now, Symbian’s source code was only open to members of the organisation. It can be downloaded from the foundation’s website from 1400 GMT. Mr Williams said that one of the motivations for the move was to speed up the rate at which the 10-year-old platform evolved. “When we chatted to companies who develop third party applications, we found people would spend up to nine months just trying to navigate the intellectual property,” he said.

“That was really hindering the rate of progress.” Opening up the platform would also improve security, he added.

‘Mind share’

Symbian development is currently dominated by Nokia, but the foundation hoped to reduce the firm’s input to “no more than 50%” by the middle of 2011, said Mr Williams. “We will see a dramatic shift in terms of who is contributing to the platform.” However, said Mr Williams, the foundation would monitor phones using the platform to ensure that they met with minimum standards. Despite being the world’s most popular smart phone operating system, Symbian has been losing the publicity battle, with Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iPhone dominating recent headlines. “Symbian desperately needs to regain mindshare at the moment,” said Mr Fogg.

“It’s useful for them to say Symbian is now open – Google has done very well out of that.” He also said that the software “may not be as open and free as an outsider might think”. “Almost all of the open source operating systems on mobile phones – Nokia’s Maemo, Google’s Android – typically have proprietary software in them.” For example, Android incorporates Google’s e-mail system Gmail. But Mr Williams denied the move to open source was a marketing move.

“The ideas we are executing ideas came 12-18 months before Android and before the launch of the original iPhone,” Mr Williams told BBC News


Pearson, Nokia form English teaching JV in China

Publishing group Pearson and phone maker Nokia have formed a joint venture to deliver English-language learning materials to mobile phone users in China, the two companies said on Monday. China, which has more English learners than in any other country, is playing an increasingly important role for Pearson, which owns the world’s largest education publishing business as well as the Financial Times and Penguin books. Last year, it bought Wall Street English for USD 145m in cash, giving it a leading position in China’s English-language teaching market. The new joint venture, named Beijing Mobiledu Technologies, builds on a service that Nokia launched in 2007, providing content from a variety of publishers, which so far has about 20 million subscribers and 1.5 million active users each month. Customers can access the content through an application preloaded on new Nokia handsets, or by visiting the service’s mobile website. Mobile phones are crucial for access to information in China, which has at least 720 million mobile subscribers, double the amount of Internet users it has. Nokia, the world’s biggest handset maker, sold almost 18 million phones in China last quarter, 36 percent more than a year earlier


Nokia makes every mobile a satnav

Mobile manufacturer launches direct attack on Garmin and TomTom with free turn-by-turn direction software.

Nokia has announced that its free maps software will now include turn-by-turn directions for walking and driving. The Ovi Maps application will be compatible with 10 current handsets, including the N97 Mini, E72 and 5800 XPressMusic, and will be pre-loaded on every GPS-enabled handset sold from March 2010. The maps, in 2D & 3D, will all load onto phones either over the air or via a Mac or PC, meaning that a network connection, as is currently required for other mobile phone mapping solutions, is not necessary when they’re in use as a GPS.

In association with mapping firm Navteq, which Nokia has owned since 2007, Ovi Maps will cover 180 countries, and offer turn by turn information for 74 of those, in 46 languages. Traffic data will also be available for 10, including the UK, although its use would form part of a mobile phone tariff. Preloading maps, however, means expensive data roaming charges can be avoided when abroad.

The technology is based on “vectors”, rather than the traditional “bitmap” images used by other maps. This means the images, although of similar appearance, are about half the size, and can be stored and downloaded more easily. Information is included on major landmarks, which are shown in 3D, and the data also incorporates lane and speed camera guidance for vehicles, and shortcuts, such as through public parks, for pedestrians.

Launching the service, Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s Executive Vice President, said that offering Ovi Maps free for the life of a Nokia smartphone would act as a way of differentiating the company’s devices in a crowded market place, and allow them to defend higher prices than other manufacturers who did not offer similar services.

Google has indicated, for instance, that it is unlikely to offer turn-by-turn directions on its Nexus One handset when it launches in the UK. The services is available on the Nexus One in America however, and also already on some devices such as the Motorola Milestone in the UK.

Nokia’s developers Forum, which the company says already includes 5 million software developers, will be encouraged to develop applications to augment the contextual search functions built into Ovi Maps. Lonely Planet and the Michelin Guide will also come pre-loaded.

The move is likely to prove a challenge to makers of standalone satnavs such as Garmin and TomTom. Asked how the move could impact on those companies, Mr Vanjoki was bullish: “I would not like to be a shareholder,” he said


Nokia Fires New Patent Lawsuit at Apple in Growing Battle

Mobile phone maker Nokia has filed a new U.S. lawsuit accusing Apple of patent infringement, according to court documents, escalating the legal battle between the companies.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, follows another suit Nokia brought against Apple in October. That suit alleged that Apple infringed 10 Nokia patents by using certain wireless technologies in the iPhone. Apple filed a countersuit last month accusing Nokia of infringing 13 Apple patents.

The new suit lists seven patents Nokia alleges Apple has violated in versions of the iPhone, the iPod, the MacBook and in other products. It requests an injunction blocking Apple from further infringement and seeks related damages from Apple.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. Nokia did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The latest suit was filed on the same day Nokia made similar allegations in a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission. Nokia and Apple have exchanged harsh words over the allegations.

“Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours,” Apple general counsel and senior vice president Bruce Sewell said in a statement when the company filed its suit. Paul Melin, general manager of patent licensing at Nokia, said in a statement last week that his company’s earlier suit was “about Apple’s attempt to free-ride on the back of Nokia investment in wireless standards.”


Nokia gets ‘the Dopplr’ effect


Nokia has reportedly continued its acquisition spree in social media with the purchase of Dopplr, the London-based site that allows people to share personal and business travel plans privately.

The deal is reported to be worth between €10m (£9m) and €15m (£13.6m) and comes hot on the heels of Nokia’s takeover of Plum, the Boston-based micro social networking site, which specialises in serving groups such as families and neighbourhood communities

Dopplr founder and CEO Marko Ahtisaari was previously the Director of Design Strategy at Nokia. A spokeswoman for Nokia declined to confirm the reports, describing the story as a “market rumour”.

Nokia has been expanding its presence in the mobile social network market for some time, having also acquired Cellity and Bit-Side this year.

Launched in 2007, Dopplr also reminds members of friends and colleagues who live in the cities they’re planning to visit.

The company claims that Dopplr’s users have already shared 70m miles of trips to over 2000 cities around the world.

The name “Dopplr” was inspired by Christian Doppler, a a 19th Century scientist who came up with what’s now known as the Doppler effect.

Intel wants to put oomph into its software to open it up to more mobile apps


Intel is looking to expand its reach into mobile devices, and it showed off features of the next version of its Moblin operating system that may find its way into mobile phones and smartphones.

During the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, the chipmaker demonstrated the 2.1 version of its Linux-based OS. The company initially targeted the OS at its netbook lineup, but the latest version features phone functionality. Moblin 2.1 also has strong integration with calendars, social networking, and news updates, and it was reminiscent of what Motorola is trying to do with its MotoBlur service for the Android-powered Cliq.

Intel also indicated it wants to beef up its software to make it easier for developers to create applications for its platforms.

“We’re flushing out the software side,” said Intel CEO Paul Otellini at the conference. “In these new spaces, in [consumer electronics] and in handhelds in particular, and to some extent in netbooks, the Intel side of the world is lacking the viral apps development that you see, say, on the iPhone.”