I think you overstate where Nokia is, and understate where Apple is. There is a huge huge difference between "delivered with high customer satisfaction", and "promising potential coming soon."
Originally Posted by jahonen
If you look at what they have stated and just now starting to ship is an ecosystem that potentially makes the underlying OS relatively irrelevant. That's the Qt environment, where development system seems to be on par with Apple's cocoa, Xcode and interface builder (judging on the positive statements about Qt and developers using both and not making their collective minds as to which one is best).
If Nokia can tap into even some tens of percent of it's existing 1.3B user base into this ecosystem, you'll have tons of developers on board. It'll likely be even bigger than that since Maemo is now Meego (Intels Moblin folded in). So you'll not only have Nokia phones (smart and dumb) to develop for. You'll also have different kinds of appliances from car systems to home automation etc. On top of that, reports of porting an App from iPhone to Qt is very straigtforward (A popular game took three days). So taking these and doing the math: the number of apps for the Qt ecosystem could easily skyrocket and match Apple's very quickly.
That's why I'm so interested in this. Looks like the Apple ecosystem may have a real competitor or two in the works (Qt and Microsoft) that look promising on paper. If they deliver, what will Apple do to counter?
What Qt hopes to do is very very very hard, especially if they plan to support hundreds of models with varying physical characteristics and components. This concept is the Holy Grail of software and in almost thirty years of software engineering, I've yet to see it done successfully anywhere on a base that is over ten models. Android is already struggling with it. Apple kills off products to ensure it can keep moving forward. Microsoft deals poorly with it and really doesn't move forward very much any more, as it struggles to carry all the old baggage around. Some believe Nokia is already struggling with it, thus the recent rumors that the CEO's job could be sent packing if a high-end product/platform doesn't ship soon. (And by the way, the OS is still very relevant as it will deliver low-level optimization and layering from the processing hardware. Screw this up and you're at the mercy of the CPU chip supplier.)
So you have quite a few big IFs in there. In the past, Nokia developers have usually had fairly positive comments, though the consumer response has not been as positive (though certainly better than many other consumer electronics and cellphone companies).
Like I said: HW wise: competition is ahead. User base: ahead. UX, behind but catching. Ecosystem: Loads of potential to catch up, looks promising. Mindshare: Apple reins (at least for now).
Can they then keep the price premium if these things do happen in the next year or two?
HW wise: competition is ahead but much of what they tout isn't important to users without matching quality software. As I said before, those competitors have been ahead since 2007, and yet iPhone has eaten their lunch in the US, UK, Australia, etc. As an example, the next iPhone looks like it will have videoconferencing. Clearly user-facing cameras have been done already on cellphones and it hasn't taken off - do you hear much of it? But let's see what happens when iPhone adds this thing called iChat and it easily ties in with all Macs (and Windows PCs - I think even PCs will get iChat within their iTunes), and Apple starts advertising the many ways it will be used by real people in real life situations.
User base: if I have a Nokia N-series or E-series today, will I replace it with a future Nokia? It hasn't happened with N-series phones over the last 3-5 years. And if most people aren't apt to stay, user base advantage is rendered irrelevant. (Remember we are talking about high-end smartphone, not the low-end.) Even though there have been multiple iPhone models, people see all of them as a single entity - they have a common UI, common apps, common syncing, common content, common aesthetic/style/design. Over 90% of iPhone owners say they will replace with another iPhone. I think Nokia was down in the 30s-40s. Blackberry may have a larger user base, but 40% of those owners say they are apt to switch. So don't overrate user base unless you have customer satisfaction and branding that leads to loyalty.
UX: "Catching" on the surface, but not really in the little things like accuracy and responsiveness, because those companies have never cared to invest in these little things. Too many of these companies just implement things to fill the features checkbox that they can put on their marketing materials. So will people think these copies are good-enough (like Windows 95 was good enough), when the subsidized price differential is less than $100 (unlike PCs in 1995 that were $1000 cheaper than Macs)? (In non-subsidized countries, it may be a different story, but we don't know yet what Apple will do in those countries.)
Ecosystem: There is a huge huge huge difference between "potential/promising" and "already being sold on the market". It's been almost a decade and Amazon has the only content store mentioned as a competitor to iTunes (even though iTunes has become bloated, Amazon still has a sloppier and more complex UI). There were plenty of supposedly promising stores that came and quickly went under. Looks like the same thing is happening with many of the burgeoning list of announced App Stores. Again, is it just a features/marketing checkbox with no real care and nurturing. Will Nokia and Google really shepherd their stores?
I separate platform from ecosystem. And it's the platform (heavily software-based, though of course dependent on hardware) where Apple's lead is the largest. Android has 150K less apps and Google never mentions how many app downloads (can you guess why?) for its platform. Apple is launching iAds (a much more pleasing way to do ads) and GameCenter. Nokia, RIM, and Palm/HP are really just out of the gate (based on actual platform results, not just promise), while Apple has already gone around the track twice. (Yes, I know Nokia already had the Symbian platform but its redoing so much of it to handle what's expected of high-end smartphones (as well as going to MeeGo) that it's like restarting. Like Mac OS X was restarting Mac all over again.)
And the iPhone platform has iPod touch and iPad benefits. Android might have something usable for Christmas. The others maybe in 2011 when iPad is on version 2. And who knows how Apple might build on this three-headed platform monster?