While Apple made headline news all over the United States this month, thanks to the launch of the new iPhone4, Nokia was making news of its own with the launch of its Nokia C3 smartphone. You probably didn’t hear much about it if you live in the United States, but in a series of special events in 10 Indonesian cities — which led thousands of customers to form huge queues to get the new handset — Nokia was the big story.
The difference in media coverage highlights another critical difference between the two companies: Nokia has a global strategy, earning 99.3 percent of its revenues outside its home base of Finland. Apple, on the other hand, has a largely U.S.-centric strategy; last year, it garnered almost 60 percent of its net sales in Americas.
This is a big challenge for the folks at One Infinite Loop. Crafting product strategies to target the advanced economies of the West no longer suffices for global leadership. Global scale requires global operations. And global leadership requires dual business models — success in the prosperous West and in the emerging East. The rivalry for global smartphone leadership is only beginning and offers a good look at two companies with very different approaches.
To be sure, Nokia is not without its significant challenges. It recently issued a profit warning that suggests it needs to reinvigorate its innovation and marketing efforts immediately. Its share in the U.S., once dominant, has slipped mightily, thanks mostly to the iPhone. But it is one thing to capture a growth segment in a single country market. It is a very different thing to capture similar segments in all critical-to-win country markets. That’s where Nokia is well-positioned and where Apple is challenged.
In 2009, the worldwide market volume of mobile devices amounted to 1.14 billion units. Of the total, Nokia accounted for 432 million units and Apple for 20 million units. Apple’s iPhone was growing explosively that year, but its market share was still not even a third of Nokia’s 68 million smart phones.
If the current growth of Nokia and Apple continued for the rest of the year 2010 — and it’s not clear that it will, given Nokia’s recent warning — Apple will sell 35-45 million smartphones in 2010, about half of Nokia’s estimated 70-80 million units, or 10 percent of Nokia’s total mobile devices worldwide.
In order to surpass Nokia globally, Apple will have to increase production 10-fold to some 400-500 million smartphones on an annual basis. Apple is not well-positioned to expand its production capabilities, particularly when compared to Nokia’s established global production systems.
Since the 1990s, Nokia has built its production network worldwide, especially in China. More recently, it has relied increasingly on in-house production and, even with smartphones, only 5 percent of the production is outsourced.
In contrast, Apple has no production of its own; it is entirely dependent on a few suppliers. Moreover, only a few of these outsourcing giants can manage massive volumes, including Flextronics, Hon Hai (Foxconn), and Sanmina-SCI.
While Apple is trying to scale up fast, its timing is difficult. Today, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturers in Guangdong suffer from extraordinary labor turmoil, which has resulted in salary hikes.
Moreover, since early spring, Foxconn, which won Apple’s order to make the iPhone, has been in the spotlight in China, due to multiple suicide cases.
Even if such a massive production ramp-up were possible for Apple, the company’s pricing strategies remain out of alignment with the global marketplace. This was evidenced most acutely with the unsuccessful iPhone launches in India and China — the most critical marketplaces of the future.
The iPhone first came to India with a bang in 2008, but high prices ($665 for 8GB, $775 for 16GB) buried the product. Most buyers felt many of the key features were already available in mobile devices that cost only a fraction of that amount. For phones that may cost less than $175 to build, both Apple and Airtel stuck to the $700 price for the phone in India (vs. $199 with a two-year AT&T contract in the U.S) — in other words, 68 percent of the annual GDP per capita.
In the U.S., the comparable GDP per capita is $46,381. Would you pay more than $31,500 for an iPhone?
After India, the iPhone flopped in China, where it arrived with a price tag of a stunning $1,000 without a contract. By the end of 2009, some 100,000 iPhones had been sold in China in a marketplace of 724 million mobile users.
In the long-term, the future market for smartphones is in China and India. In 2009, smartphones accounted for 11 percent of mobile shipments in Asia-Pacific. By 2012, this figure will grow to 20 percent.
To stabilize its competitive position, Nokia has to launch hits in the smartphone market in the next 6-18 months and, concurrently, increase its market share in America. Not an easy task for any company, much less in the hyper-competitive smartphone market. Otherwise, it risks deterioration in the U.S. and in other advanced economies and over time even in the emerging world.
Apple challenge, on the other hand, is global. In the global markets, companies can no longer afford to be strongly U.S.-centric, starting product launches in the U.S. alone and only gradually reaching other markets as supply chains catch up.
To grow outside the U.S., Apple needs to adopt a dual business model, one for the advanced economies which enjoy high living standards but relatively slow growth, and another model for emerging economies which have relatively low living standards but enjoy high growth.
Today, Nokia has such a model; Apple does not. In fact, the fluctuations of the Apple stock has correlated with those of the luxury stocks, such as LVMH Moet Hennessy and Christian Dior. That is not a good omen for the future, which requires increasing frugality even in the advanced economies.
In the past, companies could marginalize large emerging markets; today, global leadership requires success in the advanced economies and the emerging world.