‘Nokia is back – and we’re not sorry that we’re not Apple’ declares exec

Nokia’s beaten-down top dogs opened their annual Nokia World show in London Tuesday morning with a blunt and rousing pep talk and a direct riposte to their competitors.

“We’re not going to apologise for the fact that we’re not Apple or Google or anybody else – we’re Nokia and we’re unique,” markets executive vice president Niklas Savander said.

“Nokia’s going through a tough, challenging transition and we have a LOT more work to do. But we have laid the foundation for success.”

Bullish, Savander mocked Apple’s Scott Forstall for borrowing Nokia’s corporate slogan to talk about iPhone recently: “Connecting People is more than just a feel-good tagline – it’s our mission.” In return, standing on stage in front of Nokia’s developer community, Savander borrowed back a Steve Jobs catchphrase and took aim at iPhone 4…

“One more thing,” he said, before talking about Nokia’s flagship new N8 handset: “They perform – day in, day out – no matter how you hold them.

“In the past quarter, people bought far more Nokia phones than Apple and Android combined. On average, people buy 260,000 new Nokia smartphones every day – that’s more smartphones sales than any other company by far – period.” The N8, which has been taken on by over 100 carriers globally, is the first Nokia handset to be released with the re-engineered Symbian 3 OS on which Nokia’s smartphone future will depend, and Nokia expects to ship at least 50 million.

But, in services, too, Savander also dared to declare: “Contrary to popular perception, Nokia – not Google (NSDQ: GOOG) – is the leader in mobile navigation. functionality quality and reach. Ovi Maps is far, far less hungry than the Google service. Why? Because it’s optimised for mobile use.” He also said Ovi Maps offers walking navigation that Google Maps does not.

On location sharing, Savander said over 800 million people will use GPS-enabled phones by 2013. “Soon, everything on the internet will have a location coordinate – it is a space that we intend to OWN.”

In fact, Google launched walking navigations for Android’s Google Maps last week, and no phone manufacturer is necessarily winning the location-sharing game ahead of dedicated services like Foursquare themselves.

“I recognise that we haven’t been as competitive as we want to be in smartphones. Well, that’s about to change. Today, we shift in to high gear in Nokia’s fightback in smartphone leadership.” Nevermind the past, Savander said: “Today is about the here and now, about three words. NOKIA IS BACK.”

Executive vice president Ansi Vanjoki, who received warm applause after his resignation was announced on Monday, told delegates in another confident address: “The reality is that Nokia invented the smartphone.”

Nokia’s “fightback” amounts to four new handsets – the N8 entertainment smartphone, mid-market C6 and C7 phones targeted at social network users, and an E7 corporate communicator – packing Symbian 3.