[Interest] Semi-OT: What could / should Elop / Nokia have done differently?
aschmidt at dekaresearch.com
Fri Jun 22 13:41:21 CEST 2012
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.
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
Subject: [Interest] Semi-OT: What could / should Elop / Nokia have done differently?
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
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.
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