NokiaSoft – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Earlier this year, Nokia’s new CEO shocked the world by declaring Symbian a burning platform, and announcing it’s replacement with Windows Phone.

Things have never quite been the same again. I deliberately held back from writing a dedicated piece on the debacle. Finally, here are my thoughts, and it is a mixed bag.

The Good
Nokia needed to introduce something fresh and exciting. Windows Phone is fresh and exciting. I was not a believer until I purchased the HD7, a Windows Phone smartphone.

The UI is sleek, elegant, clean, and really user-friendly. The initial terrible lacks are being addressed, and with the upcoming Mango update will see Windows Phone become a very modern OS in terms of features.

A new OS brings generates buzz and excitement, things that Nokia pretty much needed.

The Bad
Having said that, there are terrible blunders about the Microsoft-Nokia deal.

1. It was dumb to announce the switch that early.
Perhaps the greatest blunder was Nokia’s announcing Symbian’s end that early. No device running the replacement OS was ready, and such an announcement was made?

The results are clear to see – Nokia smartphone sales have suffered. Nokia stock have crashed. This is a bad time to be Nokia, and the problem is not the competition. Nokia dealt this blow on themselves from within.

2. The next dumb thing was the decision to phase out Symbian.
Yes; anyone who has used the current crop of Symbian devices can testify how much better Symbian has become. Everyone who have trialled Symbian Anna speak glowingly of the update.

Why kill off Symbian this way? Why not do both Windows Phone AND Symbian, even if the latter takes the less prominent role in Nokia’s plans?

The Ugly
There is a lot of crisis management going on now at Nokia HQ. Lots of unnecessary energy are being diverted at assuring consumers, developers and network operators. This would not have been necessary had the above blunders not been committed.

Vague terms are being pandered. Primary smartphone platform? So, which is the secondary? Certain markets will continue to see Symbian support for a longer time? What does that mean?

Is there a plan B if the Windows Phone experiment fails? Everyone should have a plan B.

While Nokia is transitioning, the rest of the smartphone market is evolving.

Also, how Nokia will tame the now legendary poor battery performance of Windows Phone devices remain to be seen.

I will also refer to the issue of cost. How are Nokia going to pull off bringing down the cost of their Windows Phone devices, especially in markets where Symbian’s low-cost had assured them a strong footing? Hardware requirements for WP devices are high and stringent. Will Nokia lose those markets eventually, especially seeing a deluge of low-cost Android devices already hitting the Market?

Nokia Windows Phone Really Elop’s Initiative?
In a leaked presentation on Nokia’s software and services plans in June last year (note: that was before Elop), Nokia mentioned Windows OS along with the Series 40, Symbian and Maemo.

nokia windows

That was long before Elop came aboard. I submit that the idea of Nokia Windows Phone did not originate from Elop. Give the man a break please. Nokia had been plotting along this line for a while before Elop joined. I daresay that the Board removed the previous CEO and brought Elop in to execute the plan that they had hatched.

If the board was against Elop’s current moves, I do not doubt that they would have had him thrown out.

If you want to be angry, have a go at the Board of Directors of Nokia Corp. Why blame the messenger?

Conclusions
One thing is certain, we are witnessing one of the most traumatic upheavals in the history of mobile. Nokia has lost tremendous marketshare and mindshare.

The first Nokia Windows Phones are still months away. Symbian Anna has been delayed for the umpteenth time, doing more to alienate hitherto loyalists. These kind of delays knocked down Sony Ericsson years ago, and they are not recovered yet.

Nokia is big – far bigger than the average consumer can imagine. They have the finances and heritage to pull out of this spiral. Yet, the trends on ground are not pleasant.

As said before, this is not a good time to be Nokia.

  1. A great piece!

    Seriously, the early announcement probably denied them one prospective customer – I. Before acquiring my present Android phone, I seriously considered buying Nokia E5 but the uncertainty of buying a dying platform – Symbian – certainly contributed to my deciding on on going the Android way, and I’m happy with that decision.

  2. A well written piece. These are indeed really bad times for Nokia. The world’s largest mobile phone maker in terms of unit sales! An interesting piece I read recently seemed to show where Nokia’s problems come from!  Nokia’s Troubles Arise From Mismanagement and Not Lack of Innovation. Nokia has become so large with so much bureaucracy that churning out a product takes time. this may be the albatross for most large corporations. there have to be some sorts of internal auditing and fresh blood going on to prevent latency and stagnancy. Look at Microsoft for example. 

    Just imagine that Nokia spends more money than Apple on R&D, yet their products are most times delayed. Starting from the N8 which was perennially delayed. Now look at Anna and the X7&E6!

    Prior to now, I was blaming Elop until I realised that there are many products being developed by Nokia before Elop which were summarily dismissed after more than 3 years of R&D and never saw the light of day! http://technorati.com/business/article/nokias-troubles-arise-from-mismanagement-not/. 

    If Elop could rein in the different bureaucratic inconsistencies of Nokia and stamp out mismanagement of ideas; If he could also synchronise the different units, depts of Nokia, then they may have a fighting chance!!

  3. I for one don’t see why Nokia should dump symbian.. It can still support symbian and make it better by hiring people like janole (creator of gravity) To fix the UI. Also offer devices running WP7 and Make S40 devices better with limited multitasking for java apps

  4. Nice write up.

    I feel Nokia should not have announced Symbian’s death until WP7 had made wonderful sales and I am so curious about how Nokia will make very cheap WP.

    Most people have now tagged Symbian as a burning platform

    Well, the whole scenario further proves that Microsoft will eventually buy the Nokia Mobile Arm.

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