In Nokia

Disclaimer: I’m an invitee to Nokia Remix London as a tech columnist and blogger. In other words, Nokia paid for my travel and accomodation costs. While its natural to view my posts as ‘paid posts’, I’d like to emphasise that I retain full editorial control and Nokia has not hinted or requested me even once to write in their favor.

The venue for the launch of Nokia’s new music phone couldn’t be more appropriate. It was at the 120 year old theatre and now a club in Central London that has seen numerous performances by world renowned artists.

Nokia unveiled its latest XpressMusic 5800 to a packed auditorium of worldwide journalists and bloggers. There’s a strong reason why Nokia is so serious about its music phone and I witnessed it for myself when I travelled down London’s famous Tube. Nearly 70% of the folks in my tube capsule were plugged in.

Another strong reason – The Apple iPhone. Clearly, Apple has jolted Nokia bad. While Apple had swept the music market with the iPods, its entry into the phone market with its successful iPhone had made Nokia highly uncomfortable. Many times during the event, there were mentions about the iPhone, never once with their name but with thinly veiled references as ‘the competitor’s product’. While the latest phone is not publicly pitted as an iPhone killer, its the first salvo from Nokia in the touch screen space. In other words, its salvo against the iPhone. There are clear indications that there will be many more touch screen phones with advanced features in the pipe line.

Music is very personal and all of us would like to carry it along with us. And this level of personalization and mobility ties in perfectly into the very nature of a mobile phone. No wonder that companies that Nokia, Apple, Samsung and heck, even those Chinese phones are making it a mandatory feature in their mobile phones.

There was a time when I would carry my mobile, my Canon Powershot digital camera and an apple iPod nano along with me. Now I find my present phone quite capably taking on the functions of those stand-alone gadgets. Just one device and that’s all I need to carry along.

I asked Bill, who heads User Interface Design and the main guy behind the design of the Nseries phones, if music will become a standard feature of even entry level phones. He pointed to the example of cameras. Three or four years ago, you would have to buy a high-end phone to get a camera in your phone but now its pretty much part of all camera models. Similarly, he said that music will become part of a phone’s basic feature. He was also quick to add that there will be differentiating features from lower end to high end phones. Just like a lower end phone might just have a VGA camera and a high end phone has a 5 MP camera, music features will also vary. Fair enough, I’d say.

I played around only a little with the XpressMusic 5880 and my first impression is that it doesn’t have the Oomph factor of the iphone. However, its form factor and the usability has taken a big step forward. The user interface is a great improvement over the Nseries phones and that’s a welcome change.Touch is seriously the way to go and this is the route more and more of the Nokia phones will go in the future.

Oh, I have picked up an interesting question to add to my set of quiz questions. “Who is the World’s Biggest Manufacturer of Music Instruments?”. I know you can easily guess the answer with where the story is going but if I asked this question to another group, I’m fairly certain that they would either answer Sony or Apple. Four years ago, I remember Derek Obrien asked a question during the finals of the ET quiz which was quite similar. He wanted to know the world’s largest manufacturer of digital cameras. The answers were either Canon or Kodak. No one would’ve guessed Nokia.

I’m certain that in a few year’s time, Nokia WILL become the world’s largest manufacturer of computers. Right now, the Nseries phones arent the best substitureand I won’t throw away my laptop in a hurry, but that’s something that Nokia and the rest of the manufacturers will be vying for.

Just like how I never carry my MP3 player or my digital camera anymore, I probably won’t need to lug my laptop. Hopefully, at a cost that that won’t make me squirm.