[Interest] Semi-OT: What could / should Elop / Nokia have done differently?

Atlant Schmidt aschmidt at dekaresearch.com
Fri Jun 22 13:41:21 CEST 2012

Dear all:

  In my opinion (informed by some time spent actually
  working for Nokia), Nokia's biggest problem was that
  their early, stunning success in mobile phones led them
  to develop a culture which was risk-averse. They were
  the largest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world
  so they would routinely conclude that what they were
  doing must be maximally right and any other approach
  would be less right.

  There were literally *THOUSANDS* of middle-level managers
  at Nokia who all had the authority to say "NO!" to new
  things and almost no one who was willing to say "Yes!".

  "We want to change the way the browser zooms."

  "Well I'm the manager in charge of blue things on the
  right side of the screen and I say you can't do that!"

  "But it's almost impossible to successfully zoom a
  web page so that it's readable."

  "Look, we're the largest mobile phone manufacturer in
  the world so we know what we're doing. If you don't
  like it, you can always go elsewhere."

  So eventually, I did. So did many other talented folks.
  So, eventually, did the customers.

  Nokia became unable to make revolutionary changes or even
  fast evolutionary changes. This was true even when the
  iPhone meteor hit the Nokia planet and the dinosaurs
  started having trouble breathing. In an interview I
  watched, Executive VP Mary McDowell characterized the
  iPhone as "a toy". Not only could the leadership not
  react to the iPhone, they couldn't even see the magnitude
  of the impact. Then the Android comet came by as well...

  Yes, Nokia was running the Maemo/MeeGo skunk works, and
  given just a little more time, that phone family was
  going to break out as the proper successor to Symbian,
  but Nokia's leadership's hearts weren't really in it; they
  were still certain that the next release of Symbian would
  bring back their glory days and let business carry on as
  it had been carrying on. Never mind that (for a while
  there before Anna) each release of Symbian was less
  reliable than the previous release; the *NEXT* one would
  surely be okay! After all, we've instituted new processes
  and controls to ensure that development was being done
  more slowly and carefully!*

  I believe Elop was brought in with the deliberate purpose
  of blowing up that culture of being entirely risk-averse
  and unwilling to change.** He decided that Nokia couldn't
  wait for another release of Symbian and so he wrote the
  burning platform memo. Unfortunately, he also torched
  Maemo/MeeGo with the same firebrand. In one fell swoop,
  he completely Osborned Nokia's smartphone business.

  "Ahh, but we have featurephones and dumbphones!" the
  leadership said. "They'll carry us until Microsoft comes
  through for us!"

  Unfortunately, the dumbphone and featurephone market lives
  and dies on manufacturing costs and Nokia, while good at
  that game, was being bested by the Shenzen manufacturers.
  So it has also seen its market share decay in that sector
  of the market as well.

  Now we've all speculated on whether Elop was just inept
  or a deliberate Trojan Horse, planted by Microsoft. Up
  until the cancellation of Meltemi (the Maemo/MeeGo child
  that was going to replace S40 in featurephones), I was
  willing to entertain the idea that Elop was just totally
  inept. But the cancellation of Meltemi, the last known
  internal competitor in the "could be a smartphone" space
  has driven me to accept that Elop's motives are not pure.

  What happens now?

  Well, Microsoft just Osborned Nokia again with their
  WinPhone8 announcement of non-support for everything Nokia
  has recently sold and everything they'll attempt to sell
  for the next few months. So at this point, I'd guess that
  Nokia burns through their cash and fails as a free-standing
  business. I don't think there's *ANYTHING* they can do to
  stop that now. No Android "Hail Mary!" phone, no waiting
  for Win8, nothing.

  I think Apple should buy them for Nokia's IP portfolio.
  Apple won't do that, of course, because Apple would have
  a hard time getting regulatory approval. But they should.

  Instead, as Nokia's stock becomes worthless, I think they
  will simply fall into Microsoft's hands, almost by default.
  And the world will be a much poorer place for that; Nokia
  was a fine, moral corporation that made a good product for
  a while. If they'd let me run the place instead of Elop,
  they'd probably still be doing so.


*  Never mind that Symbian still built with (no exaggeration!)
   more than 7,000 warning messages from the compiler. Those
   warnings couldn't mean anything, right?

** Note: Elop arrived after I left so I don't have any
   insider knowledge at that point.

-----Original Message-----
From: interest-bounces+aschmidt=dekaresearch.com at qt-project.org [mailto:interest-bounces+aschmidt=dekaresearch.com at qt-project.org] On Behalf Of K. Frank
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 5:07 PM
To: Qt-interest
Subject: [Interest] Semi-OT: What could / should Elop / Nokia have done differently?

Hello List!

Most of us have been following and talking about this whole
Nokia / Microsoft thing.  A couple of recent discussions on
this list got me thinking about it again:

   [Interest] Is Nokia officially done with Qt?

   [Interest] Qt on Windows Phone 8

I would like to ask a related, but somewhat different question:
Clearly Nokia and Elop were and are facing a big business challenge.
What might they have done differently?

I'm hoping to avoid comments like this or that company is bad /
stupid / evil.  It's easy enough to say that some folks did the
wrong thing, but harder to say, okay, here's what they could have
done differently.

I think that it's arguably the case that:

   Nokia missed the iPhone revolution
   therefore faced a significant threat to their business
   therefore needed to make a dramatic (desperate?) move
   so they joined forces with Microsoft

Now I like to hate on Microsoft as much as the next guy,
and so on and so forth, but what might Elop have done
differently?  It's his job to try to save Nokia (or as
much of Nokia as he can), and not his job to try to save
Qt in particular.

It's not like Nokia could have partnered with Apple.
(Or maybe they could have.  If somebody thinks that
could have been the case, that's exactly the kind of
discussion I'm looking for.)

It's easy but not very helpful to say things like
everybody's an idiot or so-and-so is a Microsoft
tool or Nokia should have invented the iPhone before
Apple did.  I would like to approach this like a Harvard
Business School case study: Let's say you were appointed
CEO of Nokia instead of Elop back then.  What -- in the
face of the very real challenges Nokia faced -- would
you have done?  And a follow-up question:  Let's say you
are appointed to replace Elop now.  What -- given whatever
water is already under the bridge, and in the face of the
very real challenges Nokia faces now -- would you do now?

Thanks, and best regards.

K. Frank
Interest mailing list
Interest at qt-project.org

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