Nokia's first half of 2010 will be an uphill struggle without a viable device to beat its rivals, a research note by MKM Partners analyst Tero Kuittinen warns today. Citing checks, he notes that N97 sales have continued decline since the smartphone's peak of 2 million this summer and that its reworked cousin, the N97 mini, has been "soft" from the outset. Without either acting as a sales leader, the Finnish company is likely to struggle as rivals like Android devices, the BlackBerry line and the iPhone steal share.
"The first half of 2010 is looking mighty grim at the moment," the researcher says.
Supply chain sources also claim to Kuittinen that there aren't any flagship-grade devices in the pipeline for the first half of the year, a worrying sign as the Eseries business phones also aren't faring well. In the past few years, Nokia has regularly unveiled a new Nseries flagship like the N96 or N97 in February but often hasn't shipped the finished product until the middle of the year or later, hinting that the phone maker may be repeating this process again for 2010.
Moreover, the analyst cautions that Nokia can't count on lower-end devices to buoy itself as its European top 5 is led by devices that don't pull in significant revenue. The touchscreen 5800 XpressMusic once had significant revenue when new but is now over a year old, while the 6303 classic was $177 off-contract even when new and is one of the least-expensive phones Nokia sells to the continent.
A number of technologies are either just launching or still in development and aren't expected to pan out in the short term. Modernized, Maemo-based phones like the N900 may not deliver in earnest until 2011, while the first half 2010 release of the multi-touch capable, simplified Symbian^3 isn't likely to bear fruit until the second half of that same year.
The practices allegedly leading to Nokia's trouble contrast sharply with those of its rivals. Apple, HTC, RIM and others rarely allow devices to remain on the market in a significant capacity for a year and in some cases have introduced clear successors within months of each other, such as HTC launching the Magic this spring only to outperform it with the significantly improved Hero in the summer.