Alastair Curtis

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As torrents of drool continue to drench Apple's iPhone, Finnish cellphone giant Nokia has taken a decidedly non-slick approach to earning respect—and product love—from cellphone users. Under the leadership of design chief Alastair Curtis, the brand has applied both a macro and micro focus to its design strategy across a spectrum of demographics, concentrating much of its effort on developing markets. Curtis, a 15-year Nokia vet, stepped up to the head of design post in 2006, and under his watch Nokia design centers have popped up around the globe in emerging markets like India, China and Indonesia. There, the company's designers and researchers delve into the local communities with an "observe and plan" M.O., yielding a diverse product line meant to address the needs and desires of specific demos—like rural mobile users, for example. Based on ethnographic field studies the Nokia team conducted in countries like Indonesia and Uganda, the brand went on to develop the Nokia 1200 and 1250 models, which can be shared among multiple users and feature extra grippability in humidity, a dust-repellant keyboard, and even a one-touch flashlight in case of power outages. Although Nokia has been slower in its U.S. growth, it has beefed up its Stateside presence with the E-Series, which targets corporate e-mailers, and the multimedia capable N Series, including the N95.With more than 5.5 million sold since March of last year, the latter has yet to be beat by the iPhone, which has sold about 4 million units. The culturally and locally tailored moves have certainly helped the mobile leader boost its worldwide dominance in the handset biz. In January, the brand announced that its global market share grew to 40% by fourth quarter of 2007.

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