At Mobile World Congress late last month, Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia, revealed that the company has a lukewarm view of QWERTY-enabled devices, despite an increasing focus on business customers by the recovering smartphones vendor.
In response to a question as to whether the company is planning to offer Windows Phone-powered smartphones with a QWERTY keyboard, the executive said: “It’s an opportunity for us, but relative to other opportunities, we haven’t yet made a decision as to it being the right thing to do.”
Nokia has previously offered QWERTY smartphones powered by its Symbian OS platform, including many which proved popular with enterprise users as an alternative to BlackBerry devices. But while BlackBerry is set to launch a next-generation smartphone with QWERTY keypad imminently, it seems that Nokia has opted not to play in this market.
Elop noted a “worldwide phenomena” that QWERTY devices are becoming less popular, including in the mass-market sector where the company has for some time offered a range of feature phones with this form factor.
“We are one of the – if not in many quarters the largest – manufacturers of QWERTY-based devices, particularly at the low end in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, where they are heavily used for messaging and so forth. And what we are seeing even in those countries is the shift to full touch devices that is happening very rapidly,” he continued.
Of course, Nokia is not alone in shifting away from QWERTY devices, with the portfolios of its rivals also dominated by touchscreen products. However, Samsung – the company that is perhaps Nokia’s closest rival – still offers devices with QWERTY keypads, and some others also see the value in addressing the customer base for which this is a preferred format.
At MWC, Nokia and Microsoft also said they are “sharpening their focus on bringing business customers from competitor platforms to Windows Phone”. In addition to announcing a set of business wins, Nokia said that “operators including Everything Everywhere, Elisa, Orange, Telstra and Vodafone are ranging Nokia Lumia smartphones as their business hero devices”.