I noticed the photo was of a Monk in Bangkok so I assumed when the author is discussing emerging markets he is also talking about Thailand. Funny thing I was out phone shopping with a friend this past weekend in Bangkok and noticed how RIM is coming out of nowhere to suddenly be the popular phone in Thailand. Almost similar to the way BlackBerry is popular in Indonesia. The handsets are actually in an affordable range for middle-class Thais and they can be purchased used as well. What really cements the deal are pre-pay monthly data plans that are as low as 10USD a month. The all you can eat plan is actually under 20USD a month. Given all this I was not surprised to see all the hip Thais using a BB on the skytrain and it appears to quickly be creeping into the professional space.
This will be another front to fight for Nokia. iPhones are too expensive for most of the emerging markets space but you seem them all over. BB is all over Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and spreading its wings but the cheap Chinese knock-offs that you can buy for under 50USD are starting to make a dent. Android is a toy around SEA but will obviously grow when there are cheaper versions of handsets available.
All of this spells trouble for Nokia. Sure, they might sell millions of 20USD phones, but that is not a position of strength in my opinion. On the high-end they are getting crushed by Apple, RIM, and Google but it is mostly because the current crop of high-end Nokia phones are just plain terrible. The N900 looks cool but even if you had the money for one it is almost impossible to find one. I have been trying for weeks.
Making maps free and pushing on developers is a good move but it won’t stem the bleed. Nokia needs to get aggressive fast by pushing out some cool phones, coming up with a cooler developer program and partnering with more content players. Nokia has been in this predicament before but I think the competition is much stronger than ever.
Good luck Nokia – I still have my 40USD phone I keep for trashing around but none of your current models hold my interest much and now it looks like other consumers in the emerging markets are feeling the same way.