Nokia aims to overturn Research in Motion's (RiM) lead in mobile e-mail to make it the brand of choice for mobile enterprise applications.
Iluri Nurmi (pictured), VP for Nokia's flagship business smartphones, the E series, said the company was working both sides of the street, making phones sexier and more desirable to consumers, but also ensuring that they were tightly integrated with key enterprise software, such as Microsoft's Exchange and Lync, and IBM's Domino server technology.
"This means you don't have to pay the 'RiM tax' of sending e-mail through a foreign server," Nurmi told Computer Weekly. "You can connect directly to and from your enterprise servers with your mobile."
Nurmi said enterprises could mobilise their e-mail for free. "The cost of connecting to a Nokia smartphone is built into the licence fees you already pay," he said. This also gave companies complete control over the security of the data as it did not go through a third party, he said.
Enterprises could buy their own RiM server software, Nurmi noted, but this added overhead and complexity to enterprise configurations, he said.
He said companies were increasingly allowing staff to use their own smartphones to connect to corporate systems. "We are one of the few (phone makers) to understand both the consumer mind as well as the CIO's anxieties about secure remote access," he said.
Nurmi said Nokia smartphones were being built with remote phone locking and data wiping as standard. Many had on-board, hardware-accelerated encryption that would protect data if the phone was lost. "A lot of firms such as Gartner have endorsed Nokia's phone security," he said.
Nurmi said Nokia was paying increased attention to the North American market. The Finnish phone maker has been slow to respond to the inroads to the smartphone market made by Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system.
Nokia remains the global leader with one third of the smartphone market, according to market analyst Canalys, but it is ranked among "others" in the US. Canalys figures for 3Q in 2010 showed a total US market of 20.9m units, with Android taking almost 44%, Apple 26%, RiM 24%, Microsoft, 3% and others 3%.
Nurmi said North America was important to Nokia. It had set up an R&D centre to understand the market better and to get closer to the development community. It hopes to convince programmers to use Qt, an application development platform that allows faster development for different mobile platforms.
It was also working closely with key software suppliers such as Microsoft and IBM to extend and deepen the integration between enterprise applications and the smartphone, he said.
After putting its flagship operating system Symbian into the open source arena two years ago, Nokia recently took future development of the OS back in-house. This followed news that Ericsson and Samsung were dropping Symbian in favour of Android. Nurmi said moving Symbian in-house will simplify Nokia's range of operating systems and speed up the release of new versions.
Nurmi said its smartphones were now pre-packaged with Ovi Maps, which provide both pedestrian and motorised location and navigation services, online and offline. Firms were developing routing and delivery applications based on Ovi Maps, he said.
It was also developing better relationships with the US mobile carriers. AT&T and T-Mobile were already on the GSM standard, and it was encouraging that Verizon was rolling out LTE, the all-digital upgrade to GSM, Nurmi said.
Nurmi said Nokia would use the mobile carriers' business divisions as routes to market. This was already working well with Vodafone, he said.
Computer Weekly comments: Nokia's lack of market share in North America may mean it may have to buy its way in. Fortunately, margins on smartphones are still relatively high, so Nokia has room to move. The real question is why it would bother, given the size of market is one-third of either India or China alone, both of which are relatively underdeveloped.