Adam Guli, a 35-year-old social media entrepreneur who commutes across Beijing on a Vespa scooter, is giving Nokia Oyj a ride in its race against Android handsets and Apple Inc’s iPhone in China.
With a directory of 1 million restaurants, clubs and other consumer businesses in the country, Guli’s Let’s Powwow is among content providers Nokia is counting on to attract users in the world’s biggest wireless market. Espoo, Finland-based Nokia is paying the two-year-old startup to create a Windows Phone application that Guli says is on a recommended software list as Nokia’s Lumia handset made its debut in China.
“We have, I’m quite sure, the largest force of people who work with developers here in China over any of the other ecosystems,” Nokia chief executive officer Stephen Elop said on Wednesday in Beijing, where he unveiled versions of Lumia based on Microsoft Corp’s software. “We have been focused on making sure the locally relevant applications get a lot of attention.”
As many as 140 million smartphones will be sold in China this year, an increase of more than 80 percent, pushing the country past the US as the world’s largest market for the devices, according to researcher Gartner Inc. Local directory services integrated with maps are among applications that may give Lumia phones an edge and justify a higher price, particularly in sprawling cities such as Beijing.
“In China, the game is far from over,” said Derek Ling, who runs Tianji, China’s biggest professional networking site, with 9 million users. “The iPhone is not nearly as dominant in China as it is in the US.”
Apple has been “having difficulty negotiating the right terms with the biggest provider in China, which is China Mobile, so everything is up for grabs.”
Nokia yesterday showed versions of Lumia 800 and Lumia 610 to run on China Telecom Corp’s network. It is also working on phones for networks operated by China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd and China Mobile Ltd.
Nokia and Microsoft said this week they will offer grants for Windows Phone app startups through Finland’s Aalto University.
“We’re doing the same type of thing here in China,” Elop said.
Under the agreement with Let’s Powwow, data about restaurants and clubs will be pushed to Nokia’s map database for use in other apps, Guli said after an evening ride in Beijing, where his company is based.