Nokia has announced a new phone, the N81, which looks suspiciously similar to a certain Apple phone. What’s more, Nokia is launching a music download service which will allow people to download songs directly to the phone, instead of going through iTunes on their Mac or PC as iPhone users must.
Is this a bad sign for Apple? Does it mean Apple had merely a fleeting lead over the competition?
I wouldn’t worry too much. Nokia is a successful company that makes some great phones, but Apple is playing a completely different game, the game that Motorola played with the Razr. When it first came out, people heard about the Razr, they knew what it was, and they knew it was very thin and stylish. After the success of the Razr other manufacturers came out with thin phones, but apparently copying the form factor and giving the device a serialnumberesque name is not enough.
My guess is it will be the same with the iPhone – every time Nokia tells the press and customers “The N81 is just as great as the iPhone” people will hear “Mumble mumble great mumble iPhone.” I’m not a marketing expert, but it seems like a branding mistake to me.
The real way to steal the iPhone’s thunder is to figure out what people would like to do with a mobile device and an internet connection and better support that user experience. From the review on Gigaom, I’m not sure that’s the case here.