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January 8, 2010

OPK, Indiana Jones and 4.6 billion other people

OPKLAS VEGAS, USA – We’ve just come out of OPK’s keynote speech at the Consumer Electronic Show, where the main man lifted the lid on global activity and how Nokia is doing good things around the world. In all honesty, there wasn’t much here we (at Conversations) hadn’t really seen or heard before, but it was interesting for those who weren’t necessarily aware of things like Nokia Life Tools or how Nokia does research for the future. One thing OPK’s speech didn’t lack though, was facts and stats. There was loads of them, here’s a few of the stat highlights.

Nokia’s first truly portable handset, the Mobira Cityman cost about $6,000 when it launched. Compare that to today’s entry level device, the Nokia 1606, which costs about $32. OPK says that to compare the two devices would be like comparing the latest Ford Mustang with the Model T Ford.

Mobile devices are important for people living in emerging or growth markets, and Nokia is working to make them fully featured, but affordable. Over the last five years Nokia has sold in excess of 750 million entry level devices in emerging markets. And on a global level, there are now about 4.6 billion mobile users on the planet of which about 1.4 billion 1.2 billion are using Nokia devices.

Joining OPK on stage was Nokia’s own Indiana Jones, Jan Chipchase. As the company’s primary anthropologist, Jan and his team travel the world to understand how people are using devices in different parts of the world. As OPK pointed out, with Nokia operating in more than 220 countries around the world, one size simply doesn’t fit all. By better understanding the specific needs of people around the world, Jan’s  research helps to shape the opportunities of the future. Typically Jan will be looking at opportunities as far ahead as 15 years from now.

One of the most interesting challenges Jan sees, is how the 800 million or so illiterate folk in the world can actually use devices who’s user interfaces are primarily textual. It’s a big challenge, but a good example of the kind of stuff Jan looks at.

Back on stage OPK talks about how 3G, or the lack of, isn’t a barrier for enabling users to get online. Equally, the lack of GPS in devices doesn’t hold services back in growth markets. Nokia uses SMS as the key data carrier for a lot of emerging markets services, developing software and solutions with SMS at their heart. Simple cell tower triangulation might not be as accurate as GPS, but it is enough to make applications such as Mbazar, the mobile buy and sell application, localised and relevant for its users.

Services are big on Nokia’s agenda and one of the most important to launch this year will doubtless be Nokia Money. OPK highlights that 4.6 billion in the world have mobile devices, yet there are only 1.6 billion bank accounts. For vast chunks of the world, there simply isn’t a banking system. Nokia Money is looking to change that.

Possibly one of the most surprising stats you’ll read here is that 75 per cent of the world’s population don’t yet have access to email. Ovi Mail is working to change that and with 5 million signups in its first 12 months, it’s probably the most successful email service launch ever. Why? That 5 million is more than what Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail pulled in during each of their first years. Doing away with the need for a PC, Ovi Mail enables users to sign up for an email account right on their device.

OPK rounded off his keynote with an update on application development. Right now there are something like 300,000 developers in China working on applications for Symbian devices. This week we saw news about the latest iteration of Calling All Innovators 2010, which is designed to encourage even more developers to create applications and services for Nokia devices. This morning, OPK also announced a new competition dubbed Nokia Growth Economy Challenge, which will see a top prize of $1 million investment from Nokia.

So, no new announcements, but an interesting 60-minute insight into the world Nokia is involved in. No, it ain’t all about the glitz and glamour of high end smart phones. There’s more too it than that.