In Nokia World the fightback has begun
I've spent the morning in another world. It's located in a vast gleaming building in a remote spot in east London, and it's packed to the brim with people who will tell you that they have seen the future of mobile phones and it will be dominated by a very clever Finnish company which still knows best what people want. Welcome to Nokia World.You might not believe if you saw the vast and impressive show Nokia has laid on at London's Excel centre that this was a company in trouble. Crowds of developers, technology analysts and journalists flocked into an opening keynote where Nokia unveiled four new models with the usual hoopla.
The morning started with Niklas Savander, Nokia's marketing boss, telling us that his firm still dominated the smartphone market, selling more phones than Apple and Android combined. And there was a sly dig at Apple, when he boasted that Nokia's devices worked "whichever way you hold them".
And then the main presentation by Anssi Vanjoki, the man who runs the handset business, explained why the new phones, and in particular the N8 would blow the opposition out of the water. The hardware was better, the software was superb, the Ovi services outshone anything that the likes of Google's Android could offer. The mesage was clear - the fightback has begun. Although, as I found after a quick web search, Mr Vanjoki had made the same claim in a blog back in July.
If any phone is designed to win Nokia back its reputation as the coolest smartphone brand - rather than "the one your dad has" as an analyst put it to me - it is the N8. I had a quick play with it, after the keynote. On stage, the big boast was that you could plug it into your telly and play HD video straight from the phone, and that it had a fabulous 12-megapixel camera delivering better photos than any other phone.
That emphasis on the hardware struck me as missing the point - do people really buy phones these days for the quality of their video replay - or even for the number of megapixels they promise? I think it's the software that matters, and here Nokia does appear to have made progress. At first glance the Symbian 3 operating system on the phone looks much more intuitive than its predecessors. In fact it makes the N8 work just as easily as, ooh, an Android or an iPhone.
Will that be enough? I'm sure the N8 will sell well, but the problem for Nokia may be that it still won't deliver the chunky profit margins enjoyed by Apple. And is Nokia's own board confident that its new range of phones and the latest version of Symbian will be enough to win back its reputation as the most innovative firm in the mobile industry?
It seems not because Annssi Vanjoki resigned yesterday, after failing to convince the board that he, rather than Microsoft's Stephen Elop was the man to lead Nokia back to the promised land.
In such difficult circumstances, Mr Vanjoki did a great job today of promoting the company he is now leaving after more than a quarter of a century. How ironic it would be if the phones and the strategy which he has been instrumental in shaping end up making the sun shine again in Nokia World.