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Who will buy the next 150 million Symbian smartphones?

Stephen Elop stated that Nokia expects to sell approximately 150 million more Symbian devices before the transition to Windows Phone is complete. Assuming that figure is achievable (which is far from certain) I tried to understand how that figure will affect the volume and share numbers for Nokia in the coming years.

It’s very likely that the first WP phones will not ship in large volumes until 2012. Product development cycles being what they are, unless there is an ODM rebranding (i.e. taking an HTC phone and gluing a Nokia sticker on it) the minimum development time is at least 12 months. Keep in mind that Nokia does not have engineers to build such a product today and hiring them alone can take months.

The following two charts show what a two year forecast that adds up to 150 million Symbian devices looks like. I assumed Windows Phones begin to ship in 2012 and, keeping in mind that WP7 is designed for a higher hardware specification than the current Symbian phones, I show a modest ramp for a total of 15 million units in the first year.

I also forecast the overall market assuming continuing growth levels and calculated the effect of Nokia’s share.

The share at the end of 2012 would be approximately 6%.

Note however that the share above depends highly on Nokia selling 150 million Symbian units in the next two years. One could question why would anyone buy a product whose platform that’s been declared end of life. Perhaps there is a built-in assumption that end users are inherently stupid. However even in that scenario the question is which distributors will make the same bet with Nokia? Or, even more perplexing, which operators are willing to stock EOL products for two years when that shelf space is getting strong bids from Nokia’s rivals.