Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) has not achieved the success it wants in the smartphone market. Now it is hoping its new and special TV service (better known to broadcasters as the catch-up service) will help put it back in the game.
This special application is designed for the Lumia smartphone series and will let users browse a TV guide in real-time and watch programs on their devices. The Nokia TV service will be made available in Finland in the coming weeks.
After rolling out Lumias powered by the Microsoft Windows operating system, Nokia is trying to earn brownie points by offering special applications for the new devices. Nokia has released few details about the TV service, but it is clear that, in addition to watching programs, Lumia users will be able to access information such as program flow and comments made by people about the programs.
One important point to note is that the TV shows will be streamed only after they have been aired. This means watching live programs will not be possible on these phones. Also, no registration will be required to stream content.
Mika Suomela, head of TV and video at Nokia, said Nokia TV will not be positioned to jeopardize broadcasters' Internet TV businesses. On the contrary, it will support them.
What are the chances of Nokia TV pulling the company into contention in the smartphone market? I came up with six points about the critical issues that may make the idea a success. However, elements of the six points could make the idea a failure.
- Torture on-the-go: How many of us would settle for watching our favorite soap on a tiny phone screen? I am not a TV addict, but most times when I indulge in TV watching, I prefer to sit back on a sofa in front of a big screen. Trying to focus on a smartphone screen to watch television is more like Chinese torture than entertainment to me. But then, there are people who would appreciate the opportunity to watch TV whenever they like. For this group, Nokia TV may balance accessibility with comfort.
- Changes in TV consumption: Most people spend their day at work and reserve TV time for when they are at home. The success of Nokia TV -- and competing products -- will require a dramatic change in the way people watch TV and entertain themselves. Will this be possible? We simply do not have the time to watch TV on a mobile device during the workweek. We are either at work tapping keys or at home looking after our kids and doing household chores. How many of us actually have the time to watch TV on a mobile phone? Here is one quick answer: The mobile generation does. Also, that train or bus ride home may offer the perfect opportunity for a quick TV snack.
- Paying more: Streaming TV content on a mobile phone can burn out your monthly data allowance very quickly. We prefer to use our data quota searching for information on the Web, checking emails, etc. A couple of gigabytes per month should be more than enough for that. Streaming TV content to a mobile phone will require a much larger data quota, which will cost more. Are you willing to pay more for a service like Nokia TV? Is it really worth it? This is where unlimited use can be useful, but service providers are running away from this. Eventually, they will have to re-embrace this, but not before squeezing more money out of consumers. This may be a major roadblock for Nokia TV.
- Power squeeze: Streaming applications on a phone can shorten battery life dramatically. Using video and audio decoders requires quite a bit of processing power and can cause a phone battery to go flat much sooner than normal. Most people want to use battery life for receiving and making calls on a smartphone (no matter how smart it is). Is this trend likely to change? Does the Lumia offer a significantly improved battery life to compensate for the extra power Nokia TV will require? This major hurdle has no immediate solution. Until remote or wireless charging becomes possible, Nokia TV may see only limited use on the Lumia.
- Supplying content: Different countries have different regulations on the distribution and recording of TV content. Will Nokia TV be able to capture a sizable international market despite these different practices? It may work in harmony with the regulations in Finland, but how about the rest of the world? Furthermore, will content providers embrace the new service?
- Getting past the competition: Many streaming sites on the Web today offer the same service as Nokia TV. How will Nokia differentiate its service enough to make it successful? What is the advantage of using Nokia TV, rather than a streaming service on the Web that can also be easily accessed from any smartphone today? Nokia has to make its service stand out from the competition, and that's not a minor challenge. The details yet to be released will determine the strength of the offering relative to the competition.
Do you think Nokia TV will rock the world as much as Nokia thinks it will? Can it provide the smartphone market leverage the company desperately needs?