There's a countdown timer on Nokia's website that's set to expire at 9:15 CET - that's 12:15 AM, Pacific time - tomorrow morning, December 2nd. The timer will strike zero to coincide with the keynote address at Nokia World, a developer's conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Nokia World has traditionally not been a venue for big product announcements from the world's #1 maker of cell phones, but tradition seems set to change as of tomorrow. Word from Barcelona and Espoo is that Nokia's going to drop something big on the faithful, quite possibly a new high-end handset.
A few bloggers on the scene in Barcelona have today detailed encounters with Nokia PR people (or, perhaps, one "cocky" PR guy in particular) who've talked up the ultra-top secret Nokia product to be unveiled during tomorrow morning's keynote. Robert Scoble wrote of his encounter with a Nokia exec upon first arriving in Barcelona yesterday:
"When we got here a Nokia executive met me and bragged that the Internet has no clue what they will announce this week. I asked ?what about the touch screen cell phone that I've seen rumors about?? He said that no one had gotten it right yet..He told me this is one of the only times he can remember when a big announcement has not leaked. He said that even internally only a handful of people have seen the new device they?ll be announcing."
Between the countdown timer and the PR hype apparently swirling around the Spanish coast right now, it would seem that Nokia's poised to launch something big. Given that the XpressMusic 5800 (first all-touch Nokia) and E63 (mass market S60 smartphone) have already been launched, it's hard to imagine anything other than one of two things coming out of the "Transforming The Way We Connect" keynote:
1. The first touch-screen N-Series phone
2. A juiced-up successor to the N810 Internet Tablet
Given also that a "Nseries 2009" promo on the Nokia World homepage links to the countdown timer, you can bet safe money that we'll see a new Nseries device tomorrow morning. Whatever it is, my hope is that it's bolstered by a revamped S60 user interface and not another BlackBerry Storm-esque point and click UI adapted slightly to run on touchable hardware.
As Scoble points out in his post, Nokia is still the world leader in cell phone production and sales, but they've lost some of their cultural cachet to the likes of Apple and RIM when it comes to bleeding edge mobile devices. Nokia still makes some butt-kicking hardware, the E71 and N85 in particular, and the Symbian OS is widely supported and developed for, and completely open. Trouble is, the S60 platform provides a less-than-friendly experience for the average smartphone user.
When millions of consumers worldwide are drawn to the intuitive, fun experience of picking up an iPhone 3G and finger-clicking their way through it without a user manual, Nokia's decided advantage in hardware quality and platform openness kind of goes out the window. Nokia really needs to step up their game not only with a sexy touch-based device, but also a revamped user interface that's more intuitive and satisfying to use. Combine S60's power and tinker-ability with a slick UI, and Nokia will have something special to blow that $150 Million marketing budget on in 2009.
Time will tell ... less than nine hours to go ...