Don't Close the Line on Nokia Just Yet

by: Greg Gerber

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable when it comes to emerging trends in tech. One of my favorite stories right now revolves around the smartphone market and the battle for mobile operating system dominance.

The companies in this space are extremely experienced and know how to capitalize on an amazing opportunity when it presents itself. Within the last few years we have seen new companies entering the mobile space. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), RIM (RIMM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are all looking to bite a chunk out of the new exploding mobile market. Even Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) wants in with it’s new Nuvifone. While these giant companies have already pushed out once dominant Palm (PALM) and Motorola (MOT) one company still dominates the mobile world, Nokia (NYSE:NOK).

I recently dug through AdMob’s smartphone statistics for August and was amazed to see the dominant position Nokia has in the global smartphone market. It is obvious that instead of trying to compete for US customers like it’s competition, Nokia has had a much more global focus and captured an unbelievable amount of market share. AdMob’s statistics relate to internet traffic, but provide an amazing insight into the smartphone market. You can download the entire report here, but below are some of the mind-blowing statistics I discovered:

  • Nokia had 62.4% share of worldwide smartphone traffic in August '08 with RIM the next closest at 10.8%.
  • Nokia manufactures 13 of the top 20 smartphones worldwide.
  • Nokia has 33.7% market share in total phones, including regular and smartphones. The next closest is Motorola with 13.7%
  • Nokia dominates in small emerging markets like the Philippines (86%) and South Africa (87%).

While spending this week at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco, there was one quote that stood out from the rest. Navin Chadda from the Mayfield Fund said, "We like to invest in companies that have an unfair advantage in customer acquisition".  While he was referring to investing in private startups, I feel like the same holds true for public companies.

Nokia has been busy snatching up global market share while RIM, Palm, Microsoft and Apple have been fighting for the US’s attention. Nokia’s commanding lead in global market share gives it the unfair advantage Navin Chadda was referring too.

While it still dominates, NOK has recently hit a near two year low. The problem is that companies like Apple and RIM are selling their phones at break-even prices for the shear purpose of snatching market share from Nokia, which announced that it would not stoop to their level.

Nokia Corp. 20.61  0.56

The markets do not take this increased competition lightly, but this also presents an amazing opportunity to invest. This aggressive approach from its competitors cannot last long and is purely a marketing scheme that will end.

Reports from Gartner Inc. saying that the slowing economy is effecting smartphone sales and downgrades from clueless investment banks have beaten Nokia’s stock price down to a two year low on the eve of a global smartphone growth explosion. Smartphones present opportunities for multiple business opportunities including GPS, music and movile applications. Nokia’s new Symbian operating system is on par with the iPhone and Android, and will be able to compete with the best of them.

Nokia’s current stock price looks extremely undervalued at these levels. Compared to it’s new competition, I might even consider it a steal. Picking up some shares of NOK under $24 might be one the best opportunities available in the tech market today.

Disclosure: I definitely own some NOK

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