Nokia Canada

Nokia Canada has appointed former Nokia-Siemens Networks sales director Richard White as its new general manager and head of country operations. And while much of the Canadian wireless buzz has been focused on Apple’s impending iPhone launch, the new GM was quick to point out Nokia’s current lead in global smartphone sales, as well as the new opportunities the handheld maker will have as a result of the Canadian wireless spectrum auction.

In his new position with the Ajax, Ont.-based Nokia Products Ltd., White will be responsible for all facets of Nokia’s Canadian mobile product launches, strategy development, sales and channel execution, product testing and marketing.

White said that because of his experience with Nokia-Siemens Networks – which included a role as the sales director for radio access products as well as close partnerships with Rogers Wireless, Bell Canada and Telus – he will be able to bring in-depth knowledge of the technology Nokia devices use and help the business move forward in Canada.

The biggest obstacle for White will be to continue to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive smartphone market, which has gotten even more crowded with the recent launch of Samsung’s new Instinct device. But despite this steady stream of new smartphone competitors, White insists Nokia’s still the handheld maker to beat in the global market.

“If you look at the smartphone category, Nokia’s already the global leader and last year we sold over 60 million converged devices,” White said. “So, we’re very much in the smartphone business. But what we need to do as an organization is make sure the Nokia brand name remains associated with the smartphone market.”

White’s numbers appear to coincide with a recent Gartner Inc. report, which listed Nokia as having 45.2 per cent of the worldwide smartphone market share for Q1 2008. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. followed with 13 per cent, and Apple rounded out the list with five per cent.

In the U.S. though, RIM was ranked No. 1, at 42 per cent for the first quarter of 2008, while Apple was No. 2 at 20 per cent. IDC Corp. reported similar findings in a separate study, putting RIM in the U.S. at a 44 per cent share and Apple at a 19 per cent share for the first quarter of 2008. The report did not indicate Canadian figures.

“When competitors introduce new products in the smartphone category it just increases awareness in that space and drives sales up for everybody,” he said. “We welcome competition in the smartphone market.”

But according to Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, Nokia currently lacks the “sex appeal” to catch-up in the North American smartphone market. To be cool again, Tauschek said the handheld maker would have to release something fairly groundbreaking in the near future.

“They would have to come out with a new smartphone, and at this point it would have to work on CDMA networks in order to address roughly two-thirds – Telus and Bell – of the Canadian market.”

One factor that might help Nokia in the market, however, is influx of new competition among the wireless carriers as a result of Industry Canada’s ongoing wireless spectrum auction. Bidding has surpassed $4 billion in the online auction which, according to White, gives handheld manufacturers like Nokia a tremendous opportunity for increased growth.

“We’re really excited that there are so many companies that put their money where their mouth is and have invested huge amounts of money in the Canadian wireless space,” White said. “It just shows that there’s a tremendous amount of growth potential in the Canadian wireless market and we obviously intend to be a large part of that growth and a successful developer of the infrastructure that these companies are going to launch.”

White officially joined Nokia Canada in May and has worked in the wireless industry since 1988.

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