by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) June 21, 2011
Troubled mobile phone giant Nokia on Tuesday expressed confidence it can reverse its sagging fortunes and remain a market leader amid stiff competition from rivals such as Apple and Samsung.
Chief executive Stephen Elop said at a regional telecoms fair in Singapore that the Finnish company was making good on promises to overhaul itself and unveiled a new high-end phone, the N9, to bolster his claim.
"Earlier this year Nokia outlined a new course to change our direction. Just four months and ten days later, on June 21st, today, a new season is beginning at Nokia as well," Elop said at the CommunicAsia 2011 industry expo.
"We have shifted our organisation, we have a clear strategy and we are focused on delivering results."
Nokia hired Elop, a former Microsoft executive, last September as its market share slumped in the face of competition from Apple's iPhone, Asian rivals led by Samsung, and Canada's Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry.
In February, the company said it was going to adopt Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 (WP7) operating system for its future smartphones to do battle with Apple's iOS and Google's Android software, a favourite among Asian manufacturers.
Nokia has seen its global market share dwindle after other companies came up with sleeker mobile phones offering a wide range of applications from games to business software.
Nokia phones accounted for at least eight out of every 10 phones sold in Asia at one point, according to the CommunicAsia programme but analysts said it faces an uphill task to stay in the lead.
Nomura Equity Research has forecast its share of the entire mobile phone market will decline from 25.1 percent in the first quarter this year to 19.9 percent in the fourth quarter.
In the smartphone sector, the decline is steeper, from 25.5 percent in the first quarter to 13.1 percent in the fourth quarter -- which would result in Samsung ending Nokia's 14-year streak as world number one.
In addition to Samsung and Apple, Taiwan's HTC is also starting to rival Nokia, Nomura said in a June 12 report.
Until competitive new products are launched, "it is hard to see how management can arrest this decline," Nomura commented.
"By the end of 2011, we doubt that Nokia's market share in Western Europe, APAC (Asia Pacific), or North America will be higher than low- to mid-single digits at best," it said.
"This implies that Nokia has lost relevance in these markets -- markets that are brand conscious and technology aware. Not only has Nokia's brand value fallen, but it seems unlikely that WP7 is about to leapfrog Android or the iPhone," it added.
Nokia boss Elop said he was confident that the firm's first Windows 7 model will be launched later this year "and we will ship our products in volume in 2012."
The N9 features an "all-screen" display devoid of the "home" button present on the iPhone and other high-end devices, although it does not run on Windows Phone 7 software.
However, it has a function that allows users to link it to dedicated accessories such as a headset or speakers by simply touching the phone against them.
Delegates had mixed reactions to the Nokia chief's upbeat statements.
"Nokia will survive but probably in a different style, a different way. They will evolve," said Marcus Tan, Asia-Pacific managing director of mobile advertising firm Smaato, who visited Nokia's booth in CommunicAsia.
"With the influx of tablets and iPads or iPhones, I think the market will evolve and Nokia will be one of the leading players in the industry."
But Singaporean technological blogger Lester Chan was not as optimistic.
"As a phone, I would say that Samsung, definitely, Blackberry, iPhone will overtake Nokia, it's just a matter of time," he told AFP, adding that the leadership change would happen in "two, three years' time."
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