Nokia: Caught between Elop and a hard place ?

<<START RANT>>

I don’t tend to write exclusively about Nokia much but as there is the prior link with Maemo, MeeGo and of course now Jolla (ex-employees), I sometimes feel inclined when the mood takes.

Nokia for me (and I’m sure many other Europeans + of course the rest of the world) have always had my money with barely a second thought since way back in the 90′s when the mobile revolution really began to kick start.

Over the past 20 years, I have owned almost 10 different Nokia handsets including the N9, N900, N8, E7 and a whole bunch of earlier feature phones.  I’ve also tried motorola (that was a mistake), HTC, Sony Ericcson, but have always come back to Nokia inevitably.

So you could say I am brand loyal on the whole, but TBH, I’m not really that kind of person – I just tend to go for the best product that fits my needs at the time and also with due consideration to innovation, design and to the ethics of the company – for which Nokia have always been fairly consistent in all departments.

I then started thinking to myself, what other company have I staked that much single investment into (ie. circa 10 products), and the answer is there is no other company that I have truly felt inclined to be this loyal to EVER.  Oh and before you ask, no I do not have shares invested with Nokia!

So I’m pondering on the fact there must be thousands and thousands of others like me who have spent a lot of money in the past decades largely on Nokia products for the very same reasons I did, and if this is the case, why have Nokia been facing such dire straits in recent years ?

This question, for some reason, is incredibly intriguing to me.

So what happened to Nokia that has left them in such dire straits in the past few years?  Is it fair to blame Stephen Elop (Elop effect) as some other commentators like to, or perhaps Elop is being unfairly picked out as a scape goat  - what do you think ?  Moreso, had the company (back when the original iPhone was released) become too complacent with their position at the top of the mobile phone industry and so blindly assumed they would prevail in the face of – the then – rapidly advancing Apple and Google ?   Whatever you may feel, the clear answer at the time was perhaps Nokia just didn’t see what was coming and maybe no-one did.

So now, almost a year on from when the original WP7.5 Lumia series were released, will Nokia be able to turn a corner and make a comeback to reach the top again ?  The new WP8 Lumia’s are certainly looking the part and seem to be miles ahead of the competition in terms of innovation and design, but have Nokia done enough to secure their future this time?

The thing is, as much as I have been perplexed, and sometimes extremely frustrated by Nokia’s decisions over the past few years, I cannot will not accept a world without them.

Nokia have always been there and have always produced some of the best products for as long as I can remember.   A world without Nokia would be a worse off place as far as I’m concerned.   Furthermore, I will not accept a technological world dominated by the bland and tacky designs of copycat companies like Samsung.   Nokia have always been ahead in innovation and to accept that these other companies will be the future face of mobile technology is just something I will not.

Long live Nokia!

<<END RANT>>

Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear if you share my thoughts or have some alternative theories… :-)

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  1. Pingback: Maemo/MeeGo: The Real Story « Latest Jolla Mobile News

  2. i really want my next mobile to be a Nokia but the way it’s going I’m not sure anymore. I don’t want to sound like the rest but i really dislike the windows phone OS. I’ve used the lumia 800, HTC titan, Samsung wp it’s just not for me i love MeeGo and it’s sad to say buti I think that N9 is going to be my last Nokia phone.

  3. Look at the sales figures though, not market share numbers. In 2009 Nokia sold 100 million smartphones (primarily Symbian) and in 2010 they saw a 34% increase in sales and sold around 134 million smartphones (once again primaryly Symbian based). Compare that 34 million increase to the increase that Apple saw or even the total number that Apple sold in 2010. Sure Nokia saw their market share being eroded, but when you see a 34% year over year growth, that is far from a burning platform or a dead one. Sure they have problems getting developers to produce apps but fixing that is sure easier than the switch to WP. Look at the sales that Nokia is seeing; around 10 million a year. Nokia sold more in one quarter of Symbian phones than they sell in an entire year with WP.

    If Elop wanted to test the water with WP, fine, you don’t need to buy the whole farm though. That is exactly what he did. He bet the entire company on this gamble, a gamble for an OS that was seeing sales of less than 10 million a year with several existing players. All Nokia has done is fight for a piece of that pie all while still not fighting in the true marketplace. WP is a niche OS and may continue to be one. Elop could have trialed the OS all while keeping Symbian and MeeGo alive. He still could have killed them later, but test the waters and then make an informed decision. If Elop made an informed decision, then he knew that the existing phones were going to be worthless in a year as they would not run WP8. So, he alienated the existing customer base with the switch to WP7 and then again with WP8. That is what, twice in the past two years he screwed the customers over? Not a great way to retain customers especially the WP ones you were eager to get.

    So is Elop to blame? Yes. Look at the sales before Elop and then after the WP announcement. The fact is, Symbian was seeing growth.

    • Not meaning to play devils advocate here as I could be wrong, but doesn’t the number of handsets sold (sales figures) equate to market share ? Also sales volume means nothing without knowing the net profit. Turnover = vanity. Profit = sanity.
      Again, I’m not totally familiar with how Nokia operate, but you suggest that Elop had the final say in all of this, but wouldn’t it have been a democratic decision? I also heard as ewedel mentions that the board had decided on WP before even hiring Elop – the fact that he was an ex-MS guy was why he was considered for the job. There’s no doubt though that ‘the burning platform’ memo leak will go down in history as one of the most epic of fails.
      Otherwise, I completely agree with you that there was not enough transition period and WP should definitely have been tested first before throwing all eggs in one basket. I guess they felt that drastic times required drastic measures.

  4. Interesting observations, anon. My impressions based on following this in the press for a while now (due to an interest in Meego) are that

    1) the increase in Symbian sales was on lower-margin products, while sales of higher-margin products were eroding sharply, resulting in a drop in net income

    2) as a result of (1) the board of directors panicked, and brought in Elop to execute a new strategy.

    Not sure if the board had already decided on windoze, but I suspect so — hiring an MS guy would make sense if you want to know how to work with MS.

    Have also seen various comments about Nokia internally being rather political, which probably slowed the development / rollout of Meego products a bit. This seems to be typical of large companies however, which is why I work for smaller ones. :-)

    The timing of the change was very frustrating though: the N9 released to great accolades just in time for Nokia to walk away from the platform and, worse still, adopt a Microsoft foundling.

    Got to give Nokia a lot of credit for birthing Meego, though it did grow out of pre-existing products. But I wish Jolla all the best — they have the advantage of not being encumbered by all the deficits of a large company.

  5. Just read the taskumuro.com article linked elsewhere from this site. Wow, the politics were even worse than I’d thought.

    Which makes me even more convinced that the much more agile Jolla can succeed. If they can harness (and focus!) the energy that clearly went into some of the earlier development, then I think we should see great things from Jolla.

    • I agree ewedel, it definitely seems clear that a ‘crack team’ like Jolla can achieve great things with the right drive and focus. Really amazing that only a small team at Nokia in the face of all the politics and problems that were going on at the time were still able to knock out some truly groundbreaking handsets. Now take away all the politics and bureaucracy and you have Jolla. :-)

  6. I disagree tat the wp8 lumia are miles ahead. The spec is comparable to 2011 high-end phones. A few mth ago, Elop commented dual core is useless and waste battery. How can consumer trust this joker?

  7. Nokia might actually succeed with their Lumia’s, they still do beautiful design from a hardware point of view, they have a lot of original innovations going for them. Not to forget their long expertise in radio and communication solutions. The Microsoft/Nokia Lumias will never be anything for me though, the platform is…well you all know, I don’t even need to mention how closed and noobish it is. (And nothing bad about WinCE itself which is what is actually underneath all that Phone 8…I have worked with WinCE for a few years and its a great embedded operating system).

    Further, no manufacturer these days understand the power of physical keyboards and the terrible shortcomings of the virtual ones, less Nokia. It’s all about design, shiny smooth scrolling with big huge icons for visually and mentally impaired people. Trillions of apps in the eco system instead of a few hundred good ones. One app for each tiny little purpose (many times the web experience is better than the useless apps). Quantity beats quality. We’re all going to be good little monkeys sitting on the bus completely brainwashed and incapacitated by these products. Makes me sick. But this is what people buy.

    Anyhow, what I don’t like about Nokia particularly is how they have handled their faithful customers and product support in history. Remember how quickly they drop their support and how weak their continuous development of firmware for their phones is, even their “flagships” are left burning. Look at the N900, we did get PR1.3, but that’s where it stopped and things were still buggy as hell everywhere (Indeed a good phone and product, but still badly supported). To me, I value a company that takes care of their product in the field more than anything, its essential to me.

    What really made me like something about Nokia was the N800/N900 series. Great stuff, genuine linux platform and fantastic Qt on top of it. But comparing them with Nokias “feature” handsets, like E66 and older ones like N73 had user interfaces that was just insanely incomprehensible and user hostile. Structure of menus, the key mapping and odd UI mechanisms designed by dingbats. Surprisingly enough, that’s where they made their big bucks before that Smartphone boom. I’m not really sure why they were so big…maybe because the competition sucked worse.

    I just hope for Jolla to succeed with their first phones and that they can turn everything around.
    I have a feeling that these guys have their minds set in the right direction.

    Rant complete.

  8. i think the same thing of nokia company
    i always choice my phones ( few phones ) from nokia
    cause these phone are powerfull antenna capability and high impact resistence
    if u looking at MOBILE NET of Iphone u can see the low value of this “phone”, if u could call it phone
    …… NOKIA is history of mobile like UNIX/LINUX for Personal Computer
    i think that nokia could finance jolla, trying other way to mobile market, leaving the coiche to customers to choose WP7.5 with Elop or MeeGo with Hurmola

    • I tend to agree with you in terms of abandoning symbian / meego without a fight was shortsighted. It may even turn out to be fatal, albeit there’s been some good work buy a finnish journalsit / blogger as to the how and why (of giving up).

      With (current) hindsight though regardless of how poor a situation Nokia was in, it has become glaringly obvious that it has now been relegated to being one manufacturer among many, a fate which it seems could have been avoided.

      However, this is a Jolla site, and one should not burden them with past history. I just hope Jolla can and does capitalise on all the pre-existing goodwill of current and former Nokia customers, and understands the value in been equally loyal to them.

      Been ex-Nokia I hope Hurmola and friends put enough wieght on manufacturing logistics and more importantly on technical quality of devices. IMO Nokia has and still does beat ALL other manufacturers in terms of device quality. In this respect one cannot do too much.

      Either way, looking forward to seeing / experiencing the first Jollaphones.. !

      • Interesting E R, do you have a link for the Finnish journalist you mention ?
        I disagree that Nokia have become one manufacturer amongst many – their products are still exemplary in the industry and they are at least in the top 6 manufacturers.
        This is primarily a Jolla site of course, but there are prior links to Nokia which help tell the Jolla story to date. This should not be seen as a burden, but in fact helps anyone who has ever owned a Nokia connect with who Jolla are and what they are trying to achieve.

  9. It depends on what kind of Nokia you have in mind. I hate their current approach, I dont like their stupid windows OS and Elop seems a complete idiot. The Burning platform memo is one of the most idiotic things that a CEO could ever write. Abandoning without a fight an excellent OS like Symbian (I’m a Nokia 603 owner) and the nice promissing MeeGo (a few of my friends own N9s so I know something about it) was incredibly stupid.Even now, when symbian is almost dead, Nokia still sells more symbian handsets than windows phones. I cant believe that such an OS couldnt at least try to put up a fight against the Android-beta for ever (which is a very nice OS for tablets, I must say, since i have a samsung galaxy tab 2) or the uncustomizable no multi-tasking IoS (Steve Jobs rest in peace, but your heirs will ruin Apple with another set of accurate maps).
    Sorry, but I like the Symbian-MeeGo Nokia, not the MS appendix that we have right now.

  10. How much shareholder value was destroyed? It is in the tens of billions and knocked Nokia directly off the number one spot, we don’t yet know where it will land because it still hasn’t stopped falling. The board should all resign, I am almost surprised there have been no hitmen hired by shareholders given the size of the losses.

    I’ve seen the Lumia 900, it’s actually a nice phone, the user interface is fast, easy, and snappy but designed not for power users. Maybe the new Lumia 920 will stop their headlong fall. Maybe they will see sense, fire Elop and buy Jolla.

  11. whatever told and judged, there has been a prior mistake of Nokia to bring delayed products at the required times. had the MeeGo OS come along with nokia N8 times, may be Nokia Belle would had replenished the hopes too. S^3 was shitty. Belle 2 years ago, Meego just after the N900 or may be MAEMo still going with blazing guns might had rescued may be this situation would never had come. nokia already ahd the ecosystem, still fell, Android was unheard so was IOS, all came and rules, but why nokia failed.delivery of S60v5 Phones at flagship N97 was a big mistake, it never took up the challenge even with mediocre iphone 3. updates and the UI elements were too old to hang on with. ELOP Efffect, may be YES! but to a very little. Nokia never knew what consumers wanted. others did. they are cherishing. thats why OUR dear nokia is out of the TOP 5 Smartphone makers. thats so hurting.I personally hate Iphone and Android is just like the IOS, just the extention varies.Nokia does give a different taste, But that too with the crappy MS collabration,we got to get the same baked stuff, even by Samsung, HTC, blah, blah.
    Waiting for the JOLLA event on Nov 21, Lets not get disapponted. we have very high hopes and lets see how it goes. Jolla Got to make the best smart phone experience. Make it grand. we are just, just with so many other NOKIA fans, who only like to Switch to JOLLA, from Nokia. not others.
    way to go.
    Best Regard. Best Wishes Jolla.
    Pankaj

  12. Windows phone, will never go anywhere! The market shows it clearly! Fire Elop and start selling the best hardware in the world which nokia produces with jolla’s sailfish in it, and Nokia will have a chance at survival, and competing with the i’s and the droid’s!

  13. Elop is the biggest Nokia mistake in history, even a 5 years old child knows very well that WP8 will never sells because it is simply as its precedor WP7 does not respect 3rd party developers, Steve Ballmer tried to insult developers intelligence when he claimed that WP8 re-opened native development which is far from the truth, 3rd party developers are only allowed to program on WinRT and only Microsoft is the one allowed to access both WinRT and Win32 APIs, Meego is a real open developer friendly OS, get it back to Nokia and don’t even rename it to Sailfish, people love who admit its mistake and they will all buy Meego devices. and as a rule of thumb, alway hire engineer CEOs for engineering companies not what they called (business managers) because they are really professional in destroying engineering in companies. Hire them in banks instead.

  14. I think there is room for WP8 and another smartphone ecosystem at Nokia, but why they apparently decided to throw all eggs into 1 basket is – to this day – beyond me. And why they appear to be putting so many similar WP handsets out there when they could have tested the market with a couple at the most while the WP ecosystem was still developing is also very confusing. Without that many distinguishing features, and without proven success, they now have 510, 610, 710, 800, 820, 822, 900, 920 all touchscreen windows phones. They could have just as easily released half that number and continued focussing the other half on MeeGo or Symbian. With WP 7.5 they should have tested the market with 1 high-end and 1 low-end phone not 4 models that appear very similar. Building on that with WP8 they should also test again with 1 low-end/1 high-end until they are certain of its success. Meanwhile providing continuation with either Symbian or MeeGo alongside could have been easily achievable and would have satisfied existing customers not willing to make the switch to Lumia. As it stands, they have alienated existing customers in the blind hope that those customers will make the switch to Lumia which for me do not offer enough comparable features to be interested yet.