TSS INTERVIEW

Nokia CEE chief welcomes competition from Google

JÁN Kolimár shares the vision that the content inside a phone will be more important than the phone itself and he suggests that in few years no one will make big money with running a communication business with voice services alone. “However, we should be helping each other with the operators,” said Nokia’s General Manager for Central Europe in an interview with Sme.sk and The Slovak Spectator.

JÁN Kolimár shares the vision that the content inside a phone will be more important than the phone itself and he suggests that in few years no one will make big money with running a communication business with voice services alone. “However, we should be helping each other with the operators,” said Nokia’s General Manager for Central Europe in an interview with Sme.sk and The Slovak Spectator.



The Slovak Spectator/Sme: Has the economic crisis impacted your company?


Ján Kolimár (JK): The crisis can also be a catalyst for change and Nokia is undertaking some of these changes right now. I’m not sure whether it was due to the crisis, but we managed to optimise some of our processes thanks to this catalyst. Instead of introducing 50 phones a year, it will be far less in the near future. We will focus on quality and on our iconic products.


We don’t live on a desert island, but I don’t think we will be as “interesting” in this area [of crisis impacts] as, for example, the automotive industry.



TSS/Sme: In Microsoft, developers were first affected by the crisis. Was it similar in Nokia?


JK: We’re more focused on programs than on cutting staff numbers. Simply said, the priority here is to develop programs with a guarantee of success.



TSS/Sme: Does it mean a slowdown in development?


JK: I wouldn’t say that it will slow development down. It will reduce the number of novelties to just those which we believe could succeed.



TSS/Sme: From a global perspective, Nokia remains a leader. How is the company doing in the region and in Slovakia?


JK: Besides our phones, we have begun to concentrate on services. Not so long ago I saw a very good campaign on our Ovi [internet services]. Ovi means “door” in Finnish and we are opening the door to new applications. In addition to having strictly the Symbian [operating system] phones, intended primarily for applications, we have also moved to Linux which is a real applications’ incubator. Then we also have our 3G Booklet mini laptop.



TSS/Sme: Ovi is a novelty which motivates users to connect their devices to the internet and, at the same time, this perhaps “clashes” the most with Google.


JK: Two or three years ago, the introduction of a new phone concept by a certain company shifted mobility and the use of mobile phones ahead. Similar to that, we used to claim that our devices would no longer only transmit voice and SMS messages but they could be used also as multimedia devices. That’s what we used to say at the beginning of 2000 and we do further follow this strategic direction. Google and Apple are moving in a very similar way.



TSS/Sme: You were second in introduction of that kind of service. Google has some applications similar to Ovi as well. Is this the direction you want to follow?


JK: Google has its own business model. Nokia Maps and Google Maps are very similar and no new technologies are about to be invented. A significant difference lies in the policy of Google, which is focused on advertising and on the online world. We have our own policy that is concentrated on strengthening the telecom sector, especially its mobile internet services.



TSS/Sme: Is the concept of an environment with an open source code developed by several companies in any way foreign to you?


JK: Nokia has been following this direction from the very beginning. Symbian is open, too. We have around four million developers around the world. At the same time, we don’t prevent the Symbian developers from working for other companies. Ovi is also an open platform.



TSS/Sme: Not so long ago a vision of a Google Phone was presented. Do you regard it as major competition?


JK: There are lots of devices to compete with. I’ll say it in more general terms instead of expressing my opinion on just one product. I’ve been in Slovakia for 11 years and all that time we have had competition. Nokia first had mono-blocs, then someone came out with a fold-out phone and subsequently we became leaders in this segment. It was similar in the case of 3G phones and touch screen devices that came after that; but it doesn’t mean that we were always first. Our strength, our brand and the interconnection of our users has always helped us. Anyway, to give you an answer regarding Google Phone, we welcome such competition that moves the mobile internet forward.



TSS/Sme: Do you consider Google to be such a competitor?


JK: I surely do.



TSS/Sme: Can you actually imagine bringing a phone to market that would be able to work even without a mobile voice operator?


JK: We already have applications that allow us to avoid a mobile operator. For example, we have Skype in our mobile phones. We’ve been providing these services in our phones for about four years. I guess the world won’t collapse if such a phone appears. A new business model will be invented but operators and all the other players will remain.



TSS/Sme: Is your strategy going to follow the way of extending phones’ VoIP (voice over internet) features?


JK: You can see it yourself. Voice services have already become a commodity. In a few years nobody is going to make big money with the voice itself. It has already begun to happen.



TSS/Sme: You have been working for Nokia for 11 years. How can a Slovak get the position of Director for Central Europe and keep it in such a global company for 11 years?


JK: This is my sixth year outside the Slovak Republic. Nokia is an open company that provides space for active people under one condition: sometimes they have to rid themselves of comfort and be ready to travel. I worked as Sales Director in Moscow for two years. Both the improvement of our position there and a sales increase helped me get the position of General Manager for the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It helped me get responsibility also for Poland and the other countries came subsequently.



TSS/Sme: Is your work more about doing business or about strategic planning?


JK: It was more relation-oriented at the beginning. I used to make phone calls back then and now I’m writing emails - that’s how I would describe it [laughs]. I still meet clients, but now it’s being scheduled more in advance. Yet, I couldn’t do it without a good team around me.


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