The concept of free in the mobile phone market

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© Sergey Eshmetov -

© Sergey Eshmetov -

Nokia’s announcement to give away its navigation software and maps for free came as a total surprise to all of us. Just two years ago, Nokia had paid the enormous sum of € 5.7 bn for Navteq and now it’s free? Why would Nokia do that? Pure desperation?

Indeed, many experts see this as the last big move of mobile phone giant Nokia to catch up with its competitors. Rivals such as master of innovation Apple, aggressive telecommunications giant Samsung or Research in Motion whose Blackberries have become the synonyms of business phones have been gaining market share in the last years.

But what is truly remarkable about Nokia is its talent for comebacks. Several times the giant has been labeled “out of the game”. First, when Nokia totally underestimated the strong trend towards flip-phones (all for the benefit of Samsung) and just recently the high acceptance and then consumer desire for touch screen phones such as Apple’s iPhone. Many also argue that Nokia’s OS Symbian cannot keep up with the rest. Every time industry experts pointed to missed chances of the immobile giant, Nokia found a way back to gain market share and increase sales. And every time, Nokia somehow managed to come back. One of their strengths is pure size. Nokia is the world’s largest manufacturer of cell phones. No other company has such a huge variety of phones on sale. What they lacked in innovative technology and design, they always compensated with size.

But what made Nokia so huge is not only quantity. From early on Nokia has been focusing on usability and intuitive usage when they designed their phones. I remember my first 5110 and later the more business-style 6210. Other than the Sagem, Motorola or Siemens, you at once understood how they work. And they were simply solid. Nokia’s OS Symbian even profited from the weaknesses of Windows Mobile. It has always been faster and more stable. Yet what the custom Windows OS could not offer, users found in specials hacks, updates, etc. What started small became an argument to buy such a phone: you could easily mod it!
While Windows tried to fight this, and Nokia was busy improving its Symbian, Apple understood what this trend meant for the business and turned the “issue” into a business model and presented an innovative phone which could be customized with numerous apps. As all the others, Nokia followed. But has been trailing far behind. But this time, Nokia turned the game upside down and instead of responding to industry actions, it made facts.

The tactical move of giving away navigation for free shook the world of the Garmins and Navigons and certinaly iPhone mother company Apple. While the entire industry was still running on Google Maps and expensive navigation software solutions, Nokia has been creating exceptional expertise in the field of navigation. Of the approximate 163 mio gps-equipped smart phones 51% are Nokia. Ovi maps are available for more than 180 countries, auto and pedestrian navigation are offered in 74 countries and in 46 languages. There is 6000 3D building views for more than 200 cities.
As convincing as this offers is to consumers, it is also a disaster for competitors. Within a day Nokia managed to depreciate entire business models. Still trailing with their own app store Ovi, giving away a valuable service such as navigation and the necessary maps for free is quite an argument for consumers. Nokia maps rock: And it opens Nokia the doors to what may become the most valuable information in the mobile phone business: the current whereabouts of each user. And thus the ability to offer products, services and much more always exactly in perfect match to the current location. The nearest pizza restaurant, car rental station, CVS, Radio BestBuy,..

Maybe in the future the concept of free will permeate the mobile phone market. You give away the phones for free knowing that people make heavy use of the applications offered and thus in the end earning more than with the sale of the phone itself. Telephone calls not included yet. The future will be data not minutes. And in order to make the most profit you have to be the one who can provide the most adequate information at the right time. This is what Nokia aims to achieve. And it values this new market at such a high price that it is willing to give away its navigation software plus the excellent map material which in 2008 has been worth more than €5billion. This reminded me of Chris Anderson’s “Free – the future of a radical price.” In his best-selling book, he named numerous companies who chose this dramatic turn and became highly successful. Let’s see if in a 2015 edition, Nokia will serve as a another perfect example of how successful the concept of “free” can be.


Update on the current market situation, powered by Gartner Research:

Gartner 2010

Gartner 2010

New Mobile Flash Player Announced – Except for iPhone


Adobe today announced the release of a new version of flash 10, specially designed for mobile devices.
This will finally be a one version fits all for mobile phones! The only negative aspect of this announcement: iPhone users don’t get it!
This news even ranked among to tweets on twitter today and causes a lot of consternation. Why not for the innovative or better most innovative of all phones? The problem is rooted in Apple’s iPhone SDK and internal obstacles in the cooperation with Adobe.

BusinessWire today published an article on the issue:

October 05, 2009 12:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Adobe Unveils First Full Flash Player for Mobile Devices and PCs
Close to 50 Open Screen Project Participants Support New Browser Runtime for Multiple Platforms

Adobe MAX 2009
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today unveiled Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1 software for smartphones, smartbooks, netbooks, PCs and other Internet-connected devices, allowing content created using the Adobe Flash Platform to reach users wherever they are. A public developer beta of the browser-based runtime is expected to be available for Windows® Mobile, Palm® webOS and desktop operating systems including Windows, Macintosh and Linux later this year. Public betas for Google® Android™ and Symbian® OS are expected to be available in early 2010. In addition, Adobe and RIM announced a joint collaboration to bring Flash Player to Blackberry® smartphones, and Google joined close to 50 other industry players in the Open Screen Project initiative.

Flash Player 10.1 is the first consistent runtime release of the Open Screen Project that enables uncompromised Web browsing of expressive applications, content and high definition (HD) videos across devices. Using the productive Web programming model of the Flash Platform, the browser-based runtime enables millions of designers and developers to reuse code and assets and reduce the cost of creating, testing and deploying content across different operating systems and browsers. Flash Player 10.1 is easily updateable across all supported platforms to ensure rapid adoption of new innovations that move the Web forward.

The browser-based runtime leverages the power of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for accelerated video and graphics while conserving battery life and minimizing resource utilization. New mobile-ready features that take advantage of native device capabilities include support for multi-touch, gestures, mobile input models, accelerometer and screen orientation bringing unprecedented creative control and expressiveness to the mobile browsing experience. Flash Player 10.1 will also take advantage of media delivery with HTTP streaming, including integration of content protection powered by Adobe® Flash® Access 2.0. This effort, code-named Zeri, will be an open format based on industry standards and will provide content publishers, distributors and partners the tools they need to utilize HTTP infrastructures for high-quality media delivery in Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe® AIR® 2.0 software.

To learn more about Flash Player 10.1 and to see video demos visit Adobe Labs.

“With Flash Player moving to new mobile platforms, users will be able to experience virtually all Flash technology based Web content and applications wherever they are,” said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president, Platform Business Unit at Adobe. “We are excited about the broad collaboration of close to 50 industry leaders in the Open Screen Project and the ongoing collaboration with 19 out of the top 20 handset manufacturers worldwide. It will be great to see first devices ship with full Flash Player in the first half of next year.”

„We are excited to join Adobe and other industry leaders in the Open Screen Project,“ said Sundar Pichai, vice president of Product Management at Google. „This initiative supports our common goal to move the Web forward as a platform and to spur innovation in the industry through technology such as Adobe Flash.“

“Adobe Flash technology provides a key experience on new Windows phones, enabling people to enjoy rich Flash based games, videos and other interactive Web content on the go,” said Stephanie Ferguson, general manager, Product Management, Microsoft Corp. “We look forward to bringing in the new capabilities of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 to the Windows phone browser when it becomes available.”

“Motorola is excited to be one of the first handset manufacturers to ship Android based devices with Flash Player support early next year,” said Christy Wyatt, vice president of software applications and ecosystem at Motorola. “As the No.1 platform for video on the Web, uncompromised browsing of Flash technology based content is essential for a rich mobile experience and something users expect from Motorola today.”

“As a longtime partner of Adobe, and more than 400 million Nokia phones shipped with existing Flash technology to date, we are excited to see Flash Player becoming a reality for mobile phones and other mobile devices,” said Purnima Kochikar, vice president, Forum Nokia. “Nokia is excited about full Flash Player coming to devices and we are committed to supporting Flash Player 10.1 on mobile devices in 2010.”

Open Screen Project

Led by Adobe, the Open Screen Project includes close to 50 industry leaders working together to provide a consistent runtime environment across mobile phones, desktops and other consumer electronic devices. The initiative addresses the challenges of Web browsing and standalone applications on a broad range of devices, and removes the barriers to publishing content and applications seamlessly across screens. Participants of the initiative include Antena 3, Atlantic Records, ARM, BBC, Burda, Cell, Chungwha Telecom, Cisco, Comcast, Conde Nast, Daum, Disney Interactive, Fox Mobile, Google, HTC, Intel, LG Electronics, Lionsgate, Marvell, Motorola, MTV Networks, NBC Universal, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, NVIDIA, OpenTV, Palm, Paramount, QNX Software Systems, Qualcomm,, RIM, RTL, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Texas Instruments, The New York Times, Toshiba, Verizon Wireless, Ziilabs and many others.

CEOs from ARM, Broadcom, DoCoMo, Google, HTC, Motorola, NVIDIA, Palm, QUALCOMM and RIM discuss how they’re bringing Flash Platform technologies to their devices and platforms as part of the initiative. To watch the videos and for more information about the Open Screen Project visit

About Adobe Flash Platform

The Adobe Flash Platform is the leading Web design and development platform for creating expressive applications, content, and video that run consistently across operating systems and devices and reach over 98 percent of Internet-enabled desktops. Flash Player 10 was installed on more than 93 percent of computers in just the first ten months since its release. According to comScore Media Metrix, approximately 75 percent of online videos viewed worldwide are delivered using Adobe Flash technology, making it the No. 1 format for video on the Web. Major broadcasters and media companies including, and DIRECTV rely on the Adobe Flash Platform for delivering video on the Web and the platform powers social network sites such as YouTube and MySpace. For more information about the Adobe Flash Platform visit

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe revolutionizes how the world engages with ideas and information – anytime, anywhere and through any medium. For more information, visit

Adobe® and Adobe Flash® ™ are trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated. Any other trademarks or trade names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

Source: BusinessWire; the article cited here can be accessed under:

For German-only readers, here is the link to Chip Magazine which also offers an article on the issue:

Can’t wait to pimp my Nokia!