Nokia's plan to close flagship stores in New York and Chicago makes perfect sense.
Here's a company that, at least in the United States, is struggling for some direction. When it comes to phones, for example, it seems Nokia can't quite decide what market it wants to court. Nokia's new N900, a luxurious smartphone powered by the company's budding Maemo operating system, was supposed to be geared towards enthusiasts while Nokia builds more high-end phones on par with the iPhone or Motorola's Droid.
But then came a report that only one Maemo-based phone will be released in 2010, followed by Nokia's assertion that it's still dedicated to Symbian and will upgrade the old operating system to sell more cheap phones.
Then, there's the Booklet 3G, Nokia's first foray into netbooks. It's a nice enough machine, covered in aluminum and packing a 16-cell battery for up to 12 hours of battery life, but as netbooks go, it's pricey, selling for $300 with a monthly 3G service plan and $600 without it. What's really interesting, though, is how Nokia thought this would be a consumer machine, not a computer for enterprise, as it's turning out to be.
The point is that unlike Apple, which shoots for consumer-friendly luxury, or Samsung, which appears to enjoy its middle-class status, Nokia doesn't have a strong identity. So while the company searches its soul, perhaps grand storefronts in New York and Chicago aren't the best idea.
With all that in mind, Nokia's official stance seems logical: You can get Nokia products elsewhere, either at its 600,000 smaller retail outlets around the world, or at other retailers. Best Buy, for example, is the exclusive Booklet 3G seller through the holidays; and Amazon sells the N900 at a considerable discount. At least in those venues, the individual products don't have to say anything about the brand.