The crual world of smartphones
It's a harsh world in the smartphone land. Nam Yong of LG followed in the footsteps of Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo of Nokia. Both lost their positions due to low profits of their companies high end smartphone. Low, that is, when compered those of Apple and Android in general (for Nokia) and Samsung (for LG).
The US tech journalists seems to be happy to bash Nokia with anything from calling them the McDonald's of phones to putting the blame on putting too much emphasis on hardware design, and, of course, believing only a gringo can save the poor Finns. One has to cross the pond to get some more balanced views, even from non Nokia fanboys.
The smartphone marketplace is complex. Players roles and marketplaces (geographical, verticals and horizontals) are mixed in ways that makes comparisons not only hard, but easily misleading. At the moment there are four active major software platforms in the smartphone space (Symbian, iOS, Android and RIM), a legacy (Windows Mobile), two future (Windows 7 and Meego) and one unclear (webOS). Of those, three are tightly coupled with specific hardware (Apple, HP/Palm and RIM), two are software only (Android and Windows), two are lightly coupled with hardware (Meego with Intel and Nokia, Symbian with Nokia).
In addition to that, software manufacturers now all build ecosystems around their phone system (Apple Store, Android Marketplace, OVI, Zune Market, RIM). Naturally apps for one system are incompatible with any other system. Those ecosystems can be used to control the users and application (Apple) and the OEM (Android Market Place).
Now add to the mix the OEM (HTC, LG and Samsung) and the manufacturers who are not quite OEM or do not wish to be considered OEM's (Motorola, Sony-Ericson, HP). For some, the smartphone business is critical (HTC), for some, it's a part of their overall main phone business (Motorola, Sony-Ericson) and for some it's a part of consumer electronics (LG, Samsung) or IT business (HP). The OEM's are driven to push newer handsets into the market all the time to both to maintain presence and appearance of relevance.
The last layer of complexity is the cellular network providers. They play two roles. One is as a financier. The price gap between the full street price to a contract price with a provider is anywhere between half price and free. For this subsidy the provider will want concessions both from the customer (in long term and sometimes draconian contracts as well as SIM locking) and the manufacturer (in feature limitations and branding). The other role is more vague, and has to do with the need the provides have to avoid being limited to being turned into commodity dumb pipe, although I have yet to see any of those providers find a way to actually do so. This layer create crippled handset and usually keeps the software level at least one version behind. In the US things seems worse, as the mix of GSM and CDMA networks require separate type of handsets. In Europe GSM and regulations makes it easier for consumers to migrate between providers.
In this complex world tech journalist and pundits seem to add more confusion. Counting apps available for each platform as if this number provides any indication of the usability of the platforms is the the worst sin in my eyes. Putting media consumption and multimedia ahead of communication functionality, usability in different light environments and most importantly, battery life. No wonder Myriam Joire recommends the Zombie Phone, The best accessory for a smartphone is a phone you can trust to make that 911 call.