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Nokia’s Business Mobility Strategy – Does it have one?

After a long drought of truly business handsets from Nokia, the dam appears to be have been breached. The E71 has almost every feature that a business smartphone could have, and the E66 is a simpler but pleasant business slide format.

There are also another two handsets leaked, the E63 a cheaper clone of the E71 (saves the Chinese from doing it I suppose) and a horizontal slider.

With the E90 still a strong and well supported business device, on the face of it there is no doubt that Nokia want to play in the white collar business world.

The trouble is that Nokia has ended their relationship with BlackBerry, and Intellisync, their wholly owned mobile business platform, is no more.

Nokia describe the demise of Intellisync as a refocusing exercise, approved at the highest level, where limited resources (presumably people) have to be deployed appropriately.

So Ovi should be seeing a boost in employee number shortly.

This is good news for Nokia’s consumer support but I wonder if this is not an extremely short sighted decision for the overall strategy of the company.

Nokia and the networks built their fledgling mega corps on the profits from corporate and government organisations.

Out of which came classic devices and especially the 6310(i) which is still sought after many years since it was discontinued.

Well it does have superb battery life, call quality, ease of use and a car kit that was fitted to many executive cars.

Through the business handset boon was born the consumer craze, with Nokia’s ultimate offering the N95 (8GB) & N96.

Not forgetting the lower end, Nokia invests a great deal of money and energy in producing handsets for every population sector imaginable.

Though handsets may overlap in features, Nokia’s research has usually discovered a consumer niche to make the variants worthwhile.

With Nokia’s Ovi, social networking, sharing, music, video & photography and every other consumer based service will be provided to smother the opposition and sweep consumers ever more into the Nokia fold.

Except businesses.

Companies and organisations have learnt through bitter mistakes that they can’t treat their mobile strategy like a kiddie in a sweet shop.

Mobility is now part of the IT strategy not an after thought. So when considering the type of handsets to deploy amongst 10 or 10,000 staff, a great deal of thought goes into what is required from the handset.

Reliability, battery life, connectivity, applications, mobile email, support and so on.

Contracts are negotiated with operators on a 24 month basis now, so getting the mobility strategy wrong can be a painfully expensive write down. So organisations are planning.

So which handsets are the obvious contenders in any business handset strategy. It must include BlackBerry, Microsoft (HTC) and Nokia Symbian; Android and the iPhone being too new and/or proprietary.

From the standpoint that there is no sense in mixing up the handset range, especially when developing new applications and access models are in mind, that leaves a passionate internal debate about the big three.

From an IT perspective the last thing support staff want are support calls. But as they will have them, IT support will want an easy platform to fix remotely.

The idea of an exec’ being without his email in the wilds of the world and being told to drop their handset in next time they are back in the office doesn’t really cut it.

So BlackBerry has the BES server for controlling handsets and is a well liked platform. Microsoft has a sort of device management service with their snappily named System Center Mobile Device Manager, though for sure not the best in the market.

So what does Nokia offer? A month ago Intellisync, now nothing.

Nokia haven’t even sold on Intellisync, nor will they. So 100’s of thousands of users and many companies have little or no support for the 100’s of millions of dollars investment in their choice of Symbian handsets.

Talk about alienating your core customer base!

Of course you can look around and see that VNC have launched a direct control product, but that is hopeless if you are deploying applications, firmware and policies.

Mobile network operators could offer the service, though it is expensive, and would you really trust your IT in a mobile operator’s hand?

An outsource too far. Plus it would be nearly impossible to migrate to another operator eliminating any high ground negotiating position.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the only players in the business space are now BlackBerry and Microsoft. What a choice!

So rather than taking the brave decision to create a business version of Ovi, Nokia has just abandoned their customers to the fates.

Now with the credit crunch hitting the consumer market Nokia can no longer rely on businesses to ease the inevitable squeeze on profits.

If Nokia is to the mobile world that Mercedes is the automotive industry, what would Mercedes customers do if Mercedes suddenly decided that they would no longer maintain their vans and lorries.

They would still make them but don’t expect any support. Would customers not find another manufacturer that could support them?

But also when it comes to buying the next car, wouldn’t Mercedes be regarded as an unreliable partner, so giving the business to BMW.

If this analogy holds, BlackBerry will be doing a lot more business over the next few years.

So where is the strategy Nokia?