Dianne See Morrison
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 8:00 AM
Nokia ( NYSE: NOK) announced today a major push into emerging markets, debuting seven new handsets and web applications, while revealing plans to cut 600 jobs from its marketing and research units.
The cuts come at a time when fierce competition and the sluggish economy have slowed the prospects of growth for handset makers in developed countries. Four hundred fifty employees will be cut from the Markets unit, while Nokia Research Center (NRC) will see 130 employees go, as the company says it plans to "sharpen its focus on fewer but stronger research areas". Nokia will also shut down its Turku, Finland site and transfer its activities to its Salo offices, affecting a further 220 workers. Changes in marketing and research will go into effect by the start of the new year, while Turku will be closed down by the end of January ( release).
In its other announcement, Nokia is targeting emerging markets with seven new handsets and some interesting internet applications. The internet services include email through its mobile portal Ovi (Mail on Ovi), and its SMS application for agricultural information and education, or what it calls Nokia Life Tools. Life Tools are being tested in India before the year's end. Reuters Market Light (RML) will provide content for its agricultural service, which will include weather, prices, availability of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and current market prices for the produce. The information is customized to the farmer's location and selection of crops. EnableM will provide the content for its education services?including language lessons and vocabulary and general information quizzes to start with, while OnMobile will provide the tools' "fun element", with astrology services and ringtone downloads among others. The phones, which include a music one, are priced from 25 to 90 euros ($32-$115) and will begin shipping this year, while the internet services will roll out in the first half of 2009 in India, then in Asia and Africa.
It will be interesting to watch how the agricultural services in particular fare. Unlike a lot of content, and especially so in developed countries where much of it is entertainment, the customized farming updates can really be called a tool, and could make a difference to a livelihood. For Nokia, which sees itself moving away from being a handset maker to an internet services provider, emerging markets may provide more fertile ground, especially as it faces much more established competition for its web services in developed markets. ( Release).