SANTA CLARA, California (Reuters) - The chief executive of Nokia, the world mobile phone leader, gave credit to new competitors from the computer world on Wednesday, but said his company was set to respond to all challengers.
Nokia President and CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said emerging rivals Apple Inc, Google Inc, Research in Motion Ltd and Microsoft Corp have helped to accelerate interest in using the Internet on mobile phones.
“Suddenly you have the mightiest companies in the world there as your competitors. That is a little mind-boggling,” Kallasvuo said in an on-stage interview at the Churchill Club, a speakers’ forum for Silicon Valley civic leaders.
Nokia sells more than 400 million phones a year and counts a 40 percent share of the conventional global mobile phone market, where it competes with Samsung, Motorola, LG Electronics and Sony Ericsson, among others.
He said he was impressed by the strategy of Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry e-mail phone popular with business professionals, to sell not just devices themselves but whole solutions for managing corporate e-mail securely.
“Multiply what RIM has been doing here,” the Nokia executive said of his own company’s strategy to provide e-mail not only to business users but also consumers and a category of avid users in between the two markets, nicknamed “prosumers.”
Nokia recently struck a deal to use Microsoft e-mail software on its more than 80 million Series 60 phones sold so far. This should help Nokia quickly overtake RIM in terms of the numbers of phones running corporate e-mail, he said.
“We will exceed the RIM client (BlackBerry) in some months with a very good e-mail system,” Kallasvuo promised. RIM recently reported it had 19 million BlackBerry subscribers.
He singled out the positive impact that Apple has made on the industry with its iPhone over the past year, saying the Cupertino, California computer and consumer electronics company had done the mobile phone industry “a big favor.”
“We have a new, credible competitor in this business. You know I need to take my hat off,” he said of how the iPhone has raised expectations for phones. He added: “Of course we need to be able to respond to any competitor and we will.”
Of Google, the Nokia executive said it was too early to tell what impact the leading Internet company might have on the mobile phone business: “They are a newcomer here. I think the jury is still out: What is the new thing they bring here?”
Thinking back to nearly a year ago to when Google introduced its rival mobile Internet software system, Android, Kallasvuo said Nokia had been working toward similar goals for a far longer time. “I realized that we could have made the same announcement 10 years ago,” he said.
The first Android phones were introduced last month by T-Mobile in the United States, to be followed shortly by several T-Mobile markets in Europe. They feature an iPhone-like touchscreen and lots of software from independent developers.
Europe helped propel the global rise of mobile communications in the 1990s but Silicon Valley created and continues to dominate the Internet, he said. As the Internet moves onto phones, the United States is poised once again to lead that convergence, the leader of the Finnish company said.
Editing by Paul Bolding