Nokia is back – or why I think there is trouble brewing for Apple and Google

*** Update 2/16/2014 ***
Finally was able to capture my thoughts: here
*** end update ***

*** Update 2/11/2014 ***
While I'm still sticking to the points below about Hardware, Steve Jobs, Software. The timing is obviously incorrect and as it stands, Microsoft looks more and more as the company that needs a complete regroup. In that sense, the ecosystem question is really resolved at this point between Android and iOS. I would have argued that Microsoft has a real-shot but there's just too much water under the bridge and it becomes less likely by the minute. Who knows what will happen to Microsoft's mobile strategy but at this point it just doesn't look good.
On the other hand, I truly believe Nokia could have built exquisite Android phones.
*** end update ***

Apple and Google are high-flyer's, no doubt – Nokia plays catch-up. Yet, this market is rapidly advancing. Therefore, here are five reasons why I think Nokia is in a great spot to catch up.

1. Hardware

Nokia has always been a great phone manufacturer. It understands value engineering at every price point and I’m very impressed with the lower-end spectrum of Nokia’s offerings (the $30 dollar phones). Granted, the profit margins on these phones are next to zero but that doesn’t mean there’s no additional revenue. In fact, Nokia can monetize that user base in other ways, such as apps, music etc.
The high end side of Nokia is equally interesting as it always represented some of the best engineering – remember the Nokia Communicator: it was years ahead. But more strikingly, Nokia’s real problem was never the hardware, it had always been the software. So that issue is now addressed with Microsoft's resources.

2. The absence of Steve Jobs

I’m not the first one to say this: with the loss of Steve Jobs, Apple has lost its most important luminary. I made the case earlier that certain companies thrive because they have people with vision who have such a strong believe in what they do that whatever they do is successful. Google has these people, Facebook does, Amazon does, Apple had. We have yet to see real innovation from the likes of Forestall or Cook. I’m not saying that Nokia has these people, but it certainly creates a visionary equilibrium of sorts.

3. Software

Elop is a software guy in a hardware company. This has not always resulted in great outcomes (see Leo Apotheker) but at least, Nokia finally has someone who understands consumer software. It is hoped that this will change the fundamental dynamics in Nokia and tip it to a better understanding of things such as usability and software friendliness – something my last Nokia phone (E61) never had.

4. Ecosystem

Nokia by itself can never compete with Apple’s - or Amazon’s ecosystem. That’s the same reason why HP is considering/re-considering abandoning its WebOS platform. Developers have only a certain amount of bandwidth and they will use it for the most widely adopted platforms. This means Apple and Android – but with Microsoft in the mix and the gazillion .Net developers out there, there is bound to be a huge assortment of Windows apps coming to the Ovi online store. But more importantly is that Microsoft already has an ecosystem deployed: it’s called Windows Vista, 7 & 8 and it still has 90% of the desktop OS market. If you have a Mac you’re bound to buy an iPhone – but if you’re a Windows fanboy (or have significant infrastructure investments), why wouldn’t you buy a Nokia phone if it has mostly the same features (without Siri that is). The integration into Windows 7 is probably much better for a Nokia phones than for an Apple phone (I’m guessing here) because of how the data is synchronized with the phone and the desktop OS – or one only has to look at Apple’s tight integration of iPhone and Mac OS X. This would also be the reason why Android will have a tough time – Android lacks the other side of the equation: the home base. All of Google’s offerings are completely cloud based (some exceptions of course) and what’s more, there is not even a cohesive ecosystem. It is all over the map! Google calls this choice not realizing that it reduces the value of Android. How many Samsungs, Nokias and HTCs want to create their own ecosystem?

5. NFC

Nokia has been a pioneer (a founding member in fact) of NFC. There is no company on the face of the planet that understands NFC in handsets better than Nokia: from usability to engineering.