Apple is in the ascendant, even while the Phandroid folk talk a twisted form of openness. Now Amazon and Nokia have got in on the act, and both companies have already lost the ideological war -- they've referenced the competition in a negative light, rather than reference their own offerings in a positive one.

This might appear to be hair-splitting, but if you think about schoolyard politics you'll know that noting other people's inadequacies just enhances their reputation.

After all, didn't some historical figure once mutter that he didn't care what people said about him, so long as they were talking about him?

In attempting to rally their remaining troops with anti-Apple rants, both Amazon and Nokia unwittingly expose the fear afflicting management at both firms.

Nokia is no small player. Even now it remains the dominant mobile phone company in Europe, even though its US marketshare is a blip, a historical side-effect of the relatively slow evolution of the mobile market in the US.

Speaking at Nokia World in London this week, Nokia's Senior Vice President Markets, Niklas Savander took a dig at iPhone, saying, Nokia phones, "perform day-in, day-out, no matter how you hold them".

He was of course referring to Apple's 'antenna-gate' affair, of which the company last week said, "We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought." (Maybe, we'll see).

Savander also played a short video clip of Apple's Scott Forstall, senior VP iOS software, in which the latter talked about how the iPhone was all about "connecting people".

'Connecting People' has been a Nokia branding tag for years.

Ignoring the anti-Apple axioms, Nokia did get some good points across, particularly the limitations of a one-size fits all model and the supporting statement,

"We're Nokia. Our market is the world, and when it comes to our customers we know that just one device will not satisfy all of them."

But with such mighty existing market share, Nokia's next statement is an imperative that concerns me.

"Today is about three words. Nokia is back."

You mean Nokia went away?

In conjunction with the event, Nokia also revealed its new N8 smartphone is off to a strong start, yielding more pre-orders than any previous product.

The N8 boasts an anodized aluminum case, a 3.5-inch screen, with streaming and on-demand TV services.

It ain't no iPhone, however.

By referencing the competition at the event Nokia has inadvertently shown how worried it is about that self-same threat.

Note: This blog first appeared on our sister site  Computerworld - read more at - Email Jonny at [email protected]

Up the Amazon

Amazon's ad is a little more evolved.

As you can see, this shows the relative eBook reading merits of the Kindle over and above the iPad by demonstrating how challenging it is to read the screen on the Apple tablet in direct sunlight. The (cheaper) Kindle is much easier to read in bright light.

(For a follow-up ad we could probably watch a clip of an iPad shutting down when used in direct sunlight once a certain temperature is reached.)

So what's wrong with that?


Apple's iPad is far more useful than a Kindle.

Sure, if all you want is an eBook reader then a Kindle may be the thing for you, but since most iPad owners want more than this -- apps, browsing and email, for example -- the comparison is flawed.

In effect, Amazon is defining its market as iPod owners, in so doing it sets the stage for a feature-by-feature comparison, the Kindle can't win.

Yes, but the ad obviously works in terms of getting people talking, but are they the right people?

That Amazon has had to resort to criticizing the competition hints that the company isn't yet reaching the right people. After all, Amazon remains reticent to release accurate Kindle sales figures.

The company has released some hyperbole, such as this statement from senior vice president, Amazon Kindle,Steven Kessel:

"Kindle is the best-selling product on for two years running and our new generation Kindles are continuing that momentum."

What momentum? That's meaningless chatter until the sales figures are broken out. Apple meanwhile is selling over six million iOS devices each month, two million of which are estimated to be iPads.

By making a comparison with Apple, Amazon has invited comparisons by return. And in that mockery has, like Nokia, flattered Apple.

Competitors are running scared. They need vision. They lack it. That's a shame, as competition is a gift to help you change, and Apple by now must be hungry for inspiration.