Ep. 98: Can Nokia come back from the dead?Nokia once ruled the mobile phone business. But it has never made a successful smartphone for the U.S. market. Nokia just released two Lumia smartphones running the Windows Phone OS. Will they reverse Nokia's misfortune? Join Rafe Needleman's discussion...
-- -- -- Are brought up to reporters' roundtable our weekly -- a single tech topic each time and whatever happened to Nokia. You know this company once ruled the mobile phone business -- Nokia phone right here this this was a great phone use actually had voice styling. Long before anything else that up button Nokia never made it peak in the Smartphone business rim and trio grabbed the first round. The first ground in the Smartphone battle and then Apple comes along with the iPhone and -- Droid comes along from Google. And Nokia sinks into irrelevance as in the net as the next major computing revolution in the Smartphone tablet revolution kicks off. -- -- earlier this week Nokia released to leukemia Smartphones. Running the Windows Phone operating systems not its traditional Symbian OS. As well as three our show Smartphones running Symbian for less affluent countries so the question is can Nokia claw its way back up to being a leader -- -- -- A relevant player in mobile. So we're discussing that today with three great CNET experts here in the studio. Just adult court who from our reviews department who has actually seen and played with the looming iPhone apps that manage your hands. And from Seattle. News.com. And from our new -- -- from New York from Los Angeles today Roger Chang our mobile reporter and expert on all things wireless -- thanks for joining us. -- -- All right now we've got all the bugs now ironed out of this patch your system today first off. Outlets I'm Roger. Where it is today what the heck happened. Well I guess -- -- yeah I'm gonna. And -- they're disturbed their slow company. That's what happens when you become the largest handset maker you've become complacent and I would argue that it's happened before. And the Smartphone revolution actually DN. Chill like it's been missed out on the phone -- in the US. And that that kind of at least in the US market that by -- from -- their. And they spent the next few years trying to catch up in North America can really do it. I just try out the ball went went all the Smartphones came out and -- this or so behind -- -- It's only goes beyond just the -- that ended in general it was of a slow lumbering company and couldn't innovate fast enough. This is from a company that reinvented itself from a rubber boot company to go into electronics this is not a company that is. To which innovation and change is -- him. Out and -- -- reinvented themselves a couple times but. Winning Candida cell phone industry and in moves so quickly Nokia. The largest and place. I've written about except for -- the scene Nokia evolving again and trying to put it to basically try to rest on net. Content. Microsoft's Windows Phone software in this latest iteration and hope that that will bring it back to relevant and fun to watch you know should happen. And just the you can cover mobile devices for a -- owns less than you so really cool Nokia device and brush against them but that they just announced the -- -- in -- -- -- I mean that -- -- opponent -- and nine and before I guess like any period ending one of Nokia's problems. -- -- -- -- -- Windows Phone. IOS and Android were all born in the US in fact there were all born on the West Coast and the you've got Nokia overseas which -- never really been able to break into the US markets for the Smartphone devices may -- for some of the ones that you've -- sitting in front of you then all of a sudden they're getting left behind. As these other I mean even. In an even Blackberry and rim is over here on the side of the world and -- OS just never broke over here. While I am -- IOS definitely hop that the pond. So jail and ask. Who a day about operating systems to I think when it comes to Smartphones that such a key part of the equation. Before. In the old days when. When the field of Smartphones is kind of up in the air there was a Symbian operating system. I talked to us a little bit about that and -- -- you to chime in after that -- what was the key thing about Symbian did it get developer uptake. Was -- a good operating system for Smartphones. So I sensed that Symbian is when it came out is a great benefit it -- is that it was a partnership among handset makers and you know as Microsoft initially tried to -- Make it sort of first Bahrain today. Into mobile phones in 2002 I think -- -- that launched a Latin there was a lot of hesitation among handset makers to use Microsoft software. -- there are worried that you know my traffic due to any handset business what it's essentially done to the -- PC business which is you know marginalize the hardware maker Erickson and taken a lot of the profits that it if it's better to do with software and so. -- -- great benefit. Was that it wasn't Microsoft it and edit its market pretty clever things to put it wasn't my Microsoft's properties it's -- think that was one of the big reasons why it was as successful as it. Let me I think Symbian successful it was a good operates -- supports time. When IOS and Android rolled out and at that point -- showed its its age and -- kids -- really do much to improve it I mean with each update. -- would have dates are superficial. Upgrade to Symbian and it just couldn't compete with. And the new -- in our out there -- -- time it was fine as they see it it's what led to Nokia's success in their mobile phone business but. Again just couldn't compete with -- Droid or iPhone. -- Angry Birds -- on Symbian. I guess it's so what's the problem. Gusting to about Symbian is that it does have a very strong developer following them and you know from its its heyday. But Symbian -- -- Sort of pioneered. The front facing camera. And also. NFC. -- aren't yet rather get the Nokia -- was actually released in the US for T-Mobile. And I had an NFC chip in and that is kind of a pretty phones and nobody really botnet are thought about it -- recent. That's actually a bit messy -- -- at any idiot of course. You're telling it like that being. Not so much about the operating system or are about you know NFC or -- -- -- -- Apple found it -- -- you know we we've seen -- -- station IT happens so many different ways. You know it's happening in no place -- open mobile phones right now folks are getting the iPhone bringing him into the workplace you know the fact is -- it just wasn't -- equal fun. So. Nokia has made some very impressive Smartphones are talking about the key and nine is -- -- and before that there was one I. The 67000. Beautiful photos like the slimmest phone with a keyboard you can get in a real operating system their quality is good operating system -- one of the bigger problem is that right yes and also -- as they were called it didn't get a lot of carrier uptake. Not any -- so how could Nokia which used -- -- the carrier's. Essentially by having you know phones -- every five dollar price point are not get carriers to come over to its Smartphones. I you know I think in the US and I they've always -- really -- partnerships and. I'm not -- -- meet your Internet as if that was something that was by design they were really focusing on -- Europe Africa the Middle East and a market that's an excellent point that writers it was Nokia more global and then and to that -- and take their -- of the US. -- Suited to some extent yes but. I think they're they're problems of the US mean traditionally it'd been a GSM on player -- which. Current exclude them from sprint and Verizon -- two of the biggest carriers in the country. And with eighteen T and T-Mobile they're just there were so many other options out there that out. Yet Nokia was our last among all the other -- players -- -- And they just -- see this or operate on their own agenda. Whereas you know Samsung or LG would. Take the time to bend over backwards in support what the carriers wanted and that's -- the carriage went and Nokia's -- They made once owner they made several phones that. Or were part of Carolina but the when adjustments for each carrier they would sell the new make one Sony -- across the world content in the US operates. Now I wanna take a little diversion -- going on Nokia and talk about Microsoft and then we'll talk about that the merging of Microsoft Nokia here. So Microsoft has had mobile operating systems for quite awhile. -- -- CE world's worst acronym. And Windows Phone versions up to Arctic announced seven point five with new Nokia product -- Say well you're right it's -- Mobile operating system development and when and where they're going in the leadership in the mission there and and how -- and how -- ended up with. Where Microsoft is now which is not a leader in a major computing platforms. You know windows CE cannot 1990 -- That's that's that's fine for -- here folks and I you know Windows Mobile -- Windows Phone is is -- one. But what is funny is -- my access been at this for almost fifteen years -- window. Pocket PC -- -- -- the mobile phones that it kind of came out with that cannot 2002. I expect is predicting this morning and -- -- research say I went back and looked at an old story error red carpet Bill Gates back in 2000. And talked to battle these things about having it on mobile phone that would have email that you -- your music army could take notes on this long before Smartphones. And it was actually right -- that's just never executed them out and one of the problems they tried to stick essentially -- with those G limited to a fault and that's -- windows -- was. And an even later versions of Windows Mobile. -- preceded Windows Phone software. Just -- unwieldy and and they had -- inappropriate treatment upon trail at the beginning of the the podcasting Omnia I was Goodman that. Actually ran Windows Mobile for a -- that acts like a breakthrough for them for -- bit business to do okay. -- -- add a -- the Samsung blackjack which was changed in -- to. But none -- those managed it really gain much footing with consumers. Hub and so what those -- came out last year. At late last year and. -- lot of ways it -- it is sort of the first real moderate fueling. At interesting. Mobile operating system. From Microsoft and I think it's got a lot of good reviews and justifiably so I -- still has some issues at my perspective it is it's very good it's not better. In. -- IOS or or address but it's -- that it's -- you know and that ballparks -- it. For it to succeed though. Maybe you think it needs to be better than the devices need to better because. You can already get an iPhone are pretty -- Android device you have or the other ancillary markets around it. It makes it really hard for Microsoft and it to it to look -- -- So just that you have seen this new products and now we've got this struggling phone maker Nokia at least in the US and this struggling mobile operating system developer windows. That that the toothed -- kids come together. They go to the prom and they make. The -- these latest windows Smartphones tell us about the moon -- -- Pretty interesting looking baby a yet to tell us more about -- and in their lessons yeah there's an 800 which is -- more high end model and that is based on and it -- almost and an uncle -- the Nokia. And I and that was announced for global market that we're never gonna see here because it uses. The Intel meego operating system and that's not what Nokia's not anymore it definitely not you are all about. Microsoft and windows on -- so it is actually like one chunk. Of plastic poly carbonate and it's like brightly colored T -- like this flaming raspberry -- that's like flaming blueberry color. Or black. On got a really nice Green screen is really beautiful so I think the design you know you either love it -- -- -- but it's interesting and it stands out it looks really different than a lot of other Smartphones and -- -- -- most of which are lacking in densely. So there's -- It's got acting camera on the back there was a camera test that CNET indicated. And -- -- that the camera which is an eight megapixel camera that -- really specialized lens on it. -- It didn't quite stand up and a lot of the tests they didn't see -- Samsung galaxy S two -- or the iPhone. Of course we're gonna do our own tests but this is this this these products are running Windows Phone running Windows Phone 7 point five mango causes the most recent of this is this operating system is different at least the user interface for it is different from the the standard icon based -- -- of Android and iPhone it's a tile based UIs that -- a little bit bigger -- of Scott sharp edges. Lots of contrasting colors you can customize the colors. But it basically is a list of tiles. On the splash screen are pretty much to screen. And there is then -- which is like your home screeners to screen not got a bunch of big -- -- tiles on it which are basically big squares that are TD squares not treaty you're anything like Patton -- their -- -- -- and -- dynamics and if you missed call it tells you you know missed call. Now do you think -- this is for everybody here who everybody and in this discussion. We have been talked over the years. That. How to use computers at first there is nada. Windows and the Mac OS which is icons and a mouse and then we still have icons on. OS-X and an Android. We are accustomed to using computers in a particular way. Whether or not windows. The though Windows Phone OS is better it's very different if you think that. Eight users will get -- and B developers will how to take advantage of. It's very clean it's consistent line and -- -- -- Roger. Patrick up expect -- I think actually think about it -- -- Hardest thing to figure out -- -- -- yeah -- You know it opens an application. -- the novelty of it is Jessica talk about it is that it died it is of this type -- live tiles so that if you have. Appointment for example your calendar -- will show you. That today we can't -- -- -- what effort at this. I kinda interesting and there's other weird things about the -- -- some folks might like others to article the people title for me it's a weird when we are in I've seen it with. My Linkedin account my FaceBook account so pictures pop up with the people. You know what are your you're out you know your contact. And it's just sort of weird on -- Personal phone to get pictures of sort of business contacts that -- -- -- within months and years I that's not get what -- some folks may not that. It isn't I think Microsoft -- it all the way -- -- is gonna succeed is by doing things differently in -- potentially better then. That IOS and and so I think that's why you see a live tiles of that happening is that it -- natural interfaces -- is what -- -- core of this live tile design. That's -- rectangular. Is being adapt it for windows so that when windows eight comes out next year. PC operating system in my -- -- tablet operating system. -- very familiar earth -- similar interface which should make the phone theoretical more familiar to users. Now Roger com Microsoft is really pushing -- the whole metro UI and they've got more stuff going on you you wrote though that there's a Windows Phone backstage event coming up next month. What's that about what's Microsoft up to with this. I think it's just say they've got to have three AT&T phones listed there I'll admit it's not -- -- -- -- but I think -- sound. And -- events -- show off. Windows 7 point five mango and -- Also deserve it could take discuss its questions and have a discussion with reporters I think one of the problems -- Windows Phone is -- lack of perception dubbed the lack. -- cool factor from Microsoft and actually they're trying to get. A bit of mind share from. From the consumers from media. Or were largely focused on and Droid -- and an iPhone. Who who is this the big daddy in this relationship Nokia or Microsoft I -- -- -- more important to the others Nokia more important to Microsoft from -- of more important to Nokia for the success of this this new platform. I think with a big daddy relations Microsoft I think Nokia depends on Microsoft -- for survival and in Microsoft has its other business news. This is Nokia's big -- You know that Microsoft also has other partners for making -- to write you -- of the. But my question there is on -- any handset maker or has Microsoft done to have this to the phone industry panel global data -- -- -- -- with -- PC industry. Which is to make the hardware vendors. Almost irrelevant I mean the of the the -- -- 800 might be really cool phone but is it really that different from some other device running windows. You accept it to that applicant at. -- and -- you know they may come up with a great device where they can make tons of my Mac because they have -- integrated. I think you know -- -- baking industry's data to itself but you know -- It's hard for me to look at some of -- Android device I don't know how those handset makers are really doing in that market to us I don't know -- Microsoft. -- that the trend has really -- really start with Google I mean they're the ones at cern made the handset benefactors irrelevant to some extent. On they -- differentiated. And -- are basic level superficial level but. But -- Android and now that Microsoft would and his son I mean this software is what's important now -- what people understand and as if it has a manufacturing brands are nowhere near as valuable as they used to date. That's true let me just say one thing about believe me 800 at least is that it is a funky looking out and we were talking about Microsoft before but their previous Smartphone business and really button Apogee so they -- really trying to ram. All of -- The windows experience into a phone with little itty -- -- -- really make a two inch screener three inch screen maybe it was like this NASA file systems and everything they think with Windows Phone what Microsoft has done I mean it's called an entry Arthur. -- is really liked or harking back to this like kind of funky style it's really -- design Amy kind of the key to feel and -- that the Nokia India. Mirrors that really really well -- -- -- hardware matches with the software Harvard -- the software so there's there's a high end models which is what we're seeing an Nvidia right now like this this believe that this you know pink ribbons lack and then you can customize the color. Of patent basically the color of the operating system seeking matching you can -- it it's got a really interesting feeling in the hand and -- -- -- -- because that's one way that you -- -- on the other hand there's the more you know mid range -- device. And -- looks like a much more traditional Smart and it comes in black and white you can change the back covers two different colors -- they -- like holding about my hand. I was holding a phone you know with a white face and came back cover. And they had said -- -- the kinks you know but did you have angry bird operating system. -- number -- Windows Phone has Angry Birds. -- there anything I think we've heard it will not run on I think -- -- -- Angry Birds very and I put it on my old Ericsson T 39. And it'll find a way -- -- let us Peter let's move on here so does note. Will Nokia be able to sell these does Nokia who wrote the story does Nokia still have a pulse. With that -- -- Larry Digg a story. Now another thing the Nokia did recently -- was related to -- the rollout of these new phones they -- some really cool Arty stuff they showed. They have them in the phone I mean literally phones you can bend and twist to it there's -- -- Get it I mean does that Larry is not only one that has done that are -- very well CSS on that you know from -- -- so it's definitely something that the industry is looking -- in terms of mobile display and how -- -- to see that in the future but do we think that Nokia has the chops to become a leader in the way that Apple has with the Google has in the Smartphone business that the chops they had -- Launched this incredible line of small simple phones for the rest of the world I don't -- twenty years to the -- still have -- This debate the question is accurate picture companies mentioned we're doing it now Apple or Google they're doing -- with software not hardware. I'd argue it -- it can be really hard for any hardware maker you just stand above the rest except for Apple because it also wants software. Now another thing that might be happening is that Nokia. There's a story here a from -- saying that congress eager that Nokia's hinting at tablets. Roger what do you think about that can Nokia or any company. Make a run at the tablet market and actually stand out not just make a tablet -- runs an existing OS but actually stand out. I don't -- it depends on what Nokia chooses or what platform Nokia chooses to use to run a tablet right I mean. Windows Phone is an eight tablet operating system -- windows eight is so that means -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- And right -- beyond the iPad and even an Android tablets haven't really seen a lot success. Motorola -- report their earnings yesterday and -- they -- a very disappointingly low number of Xoom tablets. I'm just sort of the latest in a survey called the unsuccessful. In -- -- all the non iPad tablets are out there are so. I'm pretty skeptical but Nokia wanted out and actually being successful -- -- because it is a lot question marks about where what operates -- and they gonna use what platform. Than just the fact that -- itself right now doesn't seem to be. Not big enough to support non Apple products. -- -- -- If you don't mind I'd like to jump back to something asked before about Nokia's chances of survival and I think that when things that we haven't talked about is their brand. You know passion in Europe and I I did speak to an executive and orange and carrier premiere. And so not only is Nokia still gonna go strong with sort of I. You know more basic flip phones for those developing countries. Indefinitely so that Windows Phone wasn't selling as well in Europe. -- this executive actually equated owning a Nokia phone to driving a Mercedes patents so there's there's a executives smoking crack -- -- In his Mercedes yet again its way out I think I think what is your point that wasn't the case that matters is for five years ago products many kids and I I think I think we're gonna wait because is that. There are. You know that there is a whole level of Smartphone buyers -- an entire demographic who wants to see Nokia -- and they're gonna come back and they're gonna check out the device -- -- -- lemur like driving interest. Coming to Nokia -- you know hey. -- you know we were interested in windows -- -- before but we like Nokia and we like the kinds of funds that they make let's check this thing out so it's more like best chance. And Alfa Romeo or Citroen. I'm currently definitely you know do. -- wonder about brand loyalty in this business and -- -- there is brand -- -- the topic with Apple. You know in terms of the other hardware makers -- I just under -- You know -- certainly -- Anecdotally it's easy to see folks jumped from one device to another be happy with it and I'm happy with it -- -- interest to me now is to see what Apple is doing. Out by lowering the prices of the iPhone certainly in the US and it makes it much more available and extinct folks who -- previously had. And iphones and -- get a you know if you really wanna go go at negative three in iPhone three G straight. -- with a two year contract that the lowest costing iPhone four S is 200 bucks. -- -- you know that was what was the patiently -- that puts them squarely you know in the market with better for it really forces that accompanies these rivals like. Nokia and Samsung and LG and others to figure out how to. You know make the experience better because it's much harder -- to be -- Just wanted to where things were wrap up here Sony is talking about buying Ericsson is that right what does that mean for -- -- -- confirmed. Oh yes -- -- -- sat -- and -- by -- is buying out. Ericsson's stake in Sony Ericsson and that the handset business -- so what does that mean. Basically Sony want to take full control of Sony Ericsson which has struggled in the last few years. Tell it to kind of make any impact in the market and the hope is that by more tightly integrating Sony's products PlayStation TVs. Other gadgets what's. A line of Sony Smartphone that they can they can do better alone in the end of the joint venture you know one of the things. That I defined -- -- what's happening in the Smartphone in the tablet business which goes back to something that -- at the center earlier in the show. Is that before when the operating system wasn't really that front and senator we had -- -- at Samsung and all these big brands. Motorola they were global. I mean I just -- 33 B grants of 33 continents. Now we talk what Smartphones though the major operating systems. -- US consumers I think global consumers are -- to. -- develop in the US the the Apple operating system the Google operating system and reduce operating system -- -- the north -- -- -- they have are in North America. But certainly the the iPhone and Google as the main drivers in the evolution of Smartphones and tablets I find that fascinating that the US has managed to take back. The the interface. For these devices from Poland is actually what was becoming -- geographic stress actually can actually -- -- It's like the computer industry has finally got its teeth into the cellphone business and isn't an interest in what does that mean -- for the global cellphone industry. -- I think nobody. I mean you're you're looking at it -- you're looking at hardware manufacturers are looking at the US and and well or North America really becoming an happy -- and terms at the -- so how do the hardware confidence up. Right and what happened was Apple. And what happened was I looking over here cause the computers rather than what happened -- is that it down. That that marginalized or monetized rather. The hardware manufactures and indication in the mobile phone business these hardware manufactures are very large and very well capitalized how to make it back. Actually HTC is a fantastic example -- access -- at 800 is open and right okay so everything else is locked down. -- -- -- -- Windows Phone totally locked and you can't do anything. But with the Android being open. The manufacturers can hire developers to completely change the interface it's been so -- -- -- fragmentation so it HTC sense yet. But it's a fantastic expect that I would gladly get an inch TC -- -- -- -- as getting. For the user experience alone and wait a couple weeks for them to figure out how to upgrade to the next in greater -- rather have. Do you think Nokia should have gone with hindrance -- a Microsoft. I think it would have been harder for them to differentiate if they had them. Okay so last question for -- as we'll start with the UJ if you word Steve -- up the CEO of Nokia -- don't right now the second driving around -- Mercedes or. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Right which is you know push really hard on coming up with cool devices. You know I think that is look. Meat from afar at an errant -- issues you know it just connection attempt at a front facing. Camera which could be an issue provoked a. But battles that I think you'd do what he needs to -- It's a really tough slot right now this guys -- -- me in on -- -- think that's a bit. It just goes to eight C one of the great things if you like your -- -- Is that it's a single device that has this huge insular market rabbit accessories casing is. Applications. It's much harder to do that with the other devices because so fragment -- not just the fragmentation in the operating system. -- which is significant threat but it's just the fragmentation of -- variety of devices you know. The HTC phones look cool as to the Samsung phones and all the others but because there's so many of -- you know if -- -- theater in case respect your pocket. Cases for all of -- he didn't do that for iPhone because there's only basically one model and so I think that the challenge for these guys. You know for the lapse of the world is that. But after -- -- how to develop this this. Aftermarket accessory business -- to get all this kind of our excitement around the product and it's really really hard right now. -- -- -- And if you were you up. What would I be doing -- of -- I would be -- And busting my but trying to form partnerships in the most important markets have mattered I would be coming up with ways to spend money on marketing. To get that global reach and see you get an understanding and I would also with -- -- with my carrier partners. Especially in the US which Nokia hasn't really cracked is find ways to make bat phone pricing -- Make sure you put -- front facing camera and make sure. That there's the pricing expectation for US consumers and make sure that there's the features expectation for US consumers because you basically have one shot. To do it right. -- -- -- -- It's -- shovel money into marketing special in the US wondered -- brand is particularly don't think we grossly dressed. How much of how weak their brand is here and in the country it. It's it's not an -- racial brand have installed the product to suffer for that and as justice -- the practice have to be low. They can't compete and -- can't compete as a high end of niceness and right off the -- just because. That does those spots already taken by Android and iPhone -- And they'd -- just need to. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- If our -- means the alright listen. Thanks everyone for watching reporters' roundtable has been a great -- that. I'm Jessica thanks for coming in Roger thanks for dialing from -- LA Stephen thank you so much for getting this thing working letting it happen and this data. -- and we have I have to wrap up by saying that we have a great roundup of everything is going on with Nokia this week come on CNET news and I'll put a link to that in the show notes you can find them. Little later a -- cnet.com slash reporters dash roundtable dash podcast. If you are listening to my shall live right now I think the most gonna post a picture jail what you stand maligned -- -- -- picture that Gerry rigged system actually dialing in on. I'll put that up to my Twitter stream may be on the block posts. This has -- episode number 98 of reporters' roundtable next -- is 99. The Friday after that is episode 100 which is on 111111 which -- plan two years ago. Who actually know I didn't. But I don't know what to do for episode number 100 on 111111 if you have an idea for what would be a good reporters' roundtable sure people you'd like to see come back on the show. Drop me you know -- at cnet.com. And I'm taken all suggestions -- gotten about another week with that show together vets episode 1111111. Between now and then they'll be -- and 99 don't miss thanks everyone. With you next time.