Stephen Elop says it takes more than cheap phones to get the next billion people online
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has claimed that increased adoption of the mobile Internet in the developing world has the power to affect more people than the Industrial Revolution did in Europe during the 18th century.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Elop set out Nokia’s desire to get the next billion people to the Internet, and said the company is “proud of what we’re doing” in taking its smartphone innovations and incorporating them into cheaper products.
By doing this, Nokia was giving people who earned less money access to the same technology as the middle class and offering them a freedom in communication that was “unprecedented.”
“There is a fundamental disruptive change coming in the world,” he said. “A technological revolution is ahead of us.”
Nokia has spoken frequently of its desire to get the next billion people online and has launched a number of feature phones in developing markets, such as the Asha range. However Elop admitted that getting the next billion people online is more difficult than simply releasing affordable hardware.
He said the cost of services, network restraints and the availability of relevant content are the chief challenges, but he is confident it can be achieved. He cited the Nokia Xpress Browser, which is loaded onto many Asha phones, as an example of how the barriers can be overcome as it compresses websites, making them faster and cheaper to view (albeit raising privacy questions in the process).
“Connecting the next billion people to the Internet is a huge undertaking,” he said. “But it will happen a lot quicker than the first.”
The Next Billion
Mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular in developing countries as a way of accessing the Internet as fixed line connections are either absent or expensive to use. It has been suggested that many will skip fixed line connections entirely, just as they never owned a landline before they owned a mobile phone.
Earlier this week, Nokia revealed four new handsets. The mid-budget Nokia Lumia 720, the lower-end Nokia Lumia 520 and the Nokia 301 feature phone. It also debuted the Nokia 105, the company’s most affordable phone ever, costing just £13.
Elop admitted that it was unlikely that many Asha users would ever ‘graduate’ to Lumia smartphones. Although he said that such a trend would be ideal, it was unlikely due to the cost restraints in certain markets.
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