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Although many criticize Nokia's Symbian operating system today, recent quarter's €3 billion revenue drop and €1.3 billion loss clearly point to the fact that the transition to Windows Phone was a mistake. A former executive from Nokia claims that the current chief exec of the company lacks vision and Nokia should have stuck to its own platforms, e.g., MeeGo to realize its potential.

"Stephen Elop has not delivered a roadmap. He has been there for two to three years and there's really no roadmap. There's no overarching vision for this company. [...] Elop is operating like a chief financial officer - CFOs are very practical, always looking at costs, always internally focused. I do not think he is really projecting anything forward or sitting around with his team imaging what the future looks like. I think it is 's**t how do I get rid of a third of this overhead in R&D?'," said Lee Williams, a former senior vice president of Nokia in charge of Symbian, in an interview with Cnet UK web-site.

While Mr. Williams admits that Nokia was executing poorly in the late '00s, it was on the fundamentally right direction: it had very popular Symbian platform (which managed to outsell Apple iOS even in Q1 2011) and it was developing MeeGo platform that could rival both Apple iOS and Google Android on flagship devices.

But Stephen Elop, the current CEO of Nokia, decided to pre-announce transition from Symbian to Windows Phone, which dropped sales of Symbian-based devices immediately, and cancel all the works on the MeeGo operating system. While two or three Windows Phone-based models might make sense for Nokia, putting all eggs into the basket of one OS that had failed to become popular, was a rather controversial decision. In fact, with about two million life-to-date shipments of all Nokia Lumia WP 7.5-based smartphones, it is clear that the decision was more than just controversial.

"When I was at Nokia and we shipped a Symbian product and it was bad, in its worst incarnation we knew that if we just flipped the switch, we could move 2.5 to 3 million units overnight, no matter how bad the product. That was Nokia. That was Nokia's brand, we knew we could count on that. Now look at it: they flipped the switch and oh, 200 thousand [Windows Phone] units out of the gate. Huh? Only selling in the US, under AT&T's moniker. If you cannot flip the switch like that, Nokia's dead and devalued," claims Mr. Williams.

One operating system does not serve well on tens or hundreds of devices. Therefore, there is no right decision when choosing between Android, MeeGo, Symbian or Windows Phone as a single platform. What matters are two things: great fit of an OS for a particular product and ability to develop unique devices with exclusive differentiators.

Over the years, Nokia has developed many exceptional innovations that could become major unique features for its phones. However, with a third-party platform, such as Google Android or Microsoft Windows Phone, this cannot be done. For example great Nokia's photo capabilities cannot be realized under Windows Phone.

"The 'in house' software and expertise Nokia had and in some cases still have, created differentiators, and features that needed better market presence, and they needed to realise the benefits of a true ecosystem of software and service providers. Android is not and I do not believe will be the answer to this situation for Nokia. [...] Now they have a Windows Phone product, and the differentiators are nonexistent, the battery life is orders of magnitude behind their other products, and the best imaging or camera features are not able to be fully realized leveraging the Windows Phone code," stressed the former Nokia executive.

All-in-all, Mr. Elop will have from six to twelve months to return Nokia onto the course of own software, according to Mr. Lee. However, the company might have to get rid of certain divisions to stay alive...

"I'm confident they will be able to course correct and that they have the kind of assets and talent left to be able to do something here. I don't see them going out in a firesale. I think what will happen is they'll sell off some divisions, and/or will simply gut leadership quickly and change course a little bit, back in the direction of where they were going," concluded Lee Williams.

Tags: Nokia, Symbian, Windows Phone, Adroid, MeeGo, iOS

Discussion

Comments currently: 13
Discussion started: 04/26/12 03:56:54 PM
Latest comment: 04/30/12 09:31:20 PM
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1. 
Yes I like the Symbian OS. Faster and Reliable and make Nokia stand out in the crowd, now I don't know, they seem look like generic phones.
1 1 [Posted by: pogsnet  | Date: 04/26/12 03:56:54 PM]
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2. 
I don't think that any Windows o/s has allowed any hardware to use its true potential.It was never designed to to this if an O/S uses 50% of the hardware potential then it would be a wonder,
2 1 [Posted by: tedstoy  | Date: 04/26/12 05:30:06 PM]
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3. 
Elop and MS OS are the 2 worst things to happen to Nokia. They should have continued selling Symbian while developing MeeGo on the side or at the very least had gone with Android. Just about anything was going to be better than Windows OS. Now, it's just a matter of time before Nokia is either bought out or runs out of cash flow. Really, no one cares for Windows phones.

Even an undergraduate student in business school would tell you you should never announce a new product too far away while selling your current product as the sales of your current products may decline so drastically that you won't have sufficient amount of $ to do a proper launch with your new product. This very thing happened to Nokia. Symbian sales plummeted and it took way too long to get their first MS phone out. Finally, because they went all-in with Windows OS, they have no contingency plan.
1 0 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 04/26/12 06:58:15 PM]
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I agree that prematurely annoucing the total switch to WP was not a good idea, but to call WP a bad OS is baseless. If you read independent reviews, you'd know that WP is a very efficient OS.

If Nokia had kept MeeGo, they would have to compete with other OS's and that require tremendous resources to upkeep the OS. Not to mention they need to market it to developers and carriers.

I like Symbian and have used several of them. The problem is with profit margin because Symbian targets lower end market -- and everyone knows how much Apple profits from the highend, smartphone market segment.

I am not sure if Nokia had made a bad choice, but clearly they had to change - adapt or perish. Look at what happened to the once almighty RIM. In that sense, I don't think Lee William's stay-the-course strategy was necessarily a good choice either. Apparently, Nokia disagreed with him.

I think (and hope) Nokia has made the right choice. I do like their phones and I think Windows 8 will change the smartphone landscape quite a bit. IMO, even 10% - 15% of market share would be considered a huge success in the hyper competitive smartphone market. If nothing else, competition is good for all of us.
4 0 [Posted by: gamoniac  | Date: 04/26/12 09:49:10 PM]
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Right, but even if Symbian was quickly losing market share, they were still able to ship millions of phones. I remember I was excited to actually get the next Nokia phone after my E72, but once they announced Windows phones and discontinuing both MeeGo and Symbian, I had a feeling that all the strengths of Nokia would disappear:

1) Going with Windows OS likely meant MS would want to sell Nokia phones on contract (a lot of people bought Nokia phones because you didn't need a contract);

2) Excellent battery life and camera capabilities were partly related to their specific OS. Windows phones have horrible battery life and they don't allow Nokia to have class leading camera performance;

3) If I wanted a cool new OS, I'd want one with full customization such as Android or at least a lot of cool gadgets/apps (Android / iOS). In both cases, Windows is inferior imho. Given the lackluster sales of Windows phones, it seems vast majority of consumers agree.

Also, if you note, they are selling Lumia phones with AT&T for $99.99. That's undercutting everyone, which tarnishes Nokia's premium brand. I am not sure why you think Nokia targeted lower-end segments, since it's definitely not true. They had nigh end phones with N95, N900, etc.
0 0 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 04/28/12 08:13:05 AM]
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4. 
Elop move was the best thing that could happen to Intel.
1 0 [Posted by: Tukee44  | Date: 04/26/12 07:22:33 PM]
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5. 
Nokia's Budget for Meego R&D was about 30% of the Symbian R&D.

And they managed to develop N9 and N950 which are very nice phones, and they also had huge developer momentum.

Earlier they made n900 which is the best pocket-computer that has been commercially solf(and happens to also function as phone) with much smaller budget.

And Meego was very developer-friendly environment so software development for it was easy/productive (unlike symbian before qt, which was very developer-hostile)

And, I don't understand how anyone who has really used Symbian can like it. I have used symbian-based phone as my primary phone for over 5 years and done some software development for it and I know it really deserved to die. It was rotten inside, and software was bad because software development for it was so hard.
After 3 years of use my E90 was so slow than just opening the text message inbox took about more than 15 seconds. (And that E90 was supposed to have this optimized new kernel that fixed the performance problems of older versions..)

And about marketing money..
N9 sold very well in countries where it was sold, even without any marketing, because it is/was the best phone on the market. Too bad they did not bring the even better N950 into stores, and they are only selling N9 on some countries.

Now Nokia is investing heavily on marketing those Lumias and they still sell less than N9 on countries where both are available.


Windows Phone have couple of very bad problems. One is the lack of real multi-tasking, and only those hard-to-use backgroud tasks which try to compensate it (but often fail badly).

Another problem is lack of industry-standard programming API's such as OpenGL; When one creates a game for Android and/or iPhone, he uses OpenGL, and it's very easily ported between Android, iPhone and Meego. But porting it to windows phone means total rewrite of all graphics code.
2 0 [Posted by: hkultala  | Date: 04/27/12 03:01:24 AM]
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6. 
It's been a long time since I had a NOKIA phone. Personally, I think they make good phones but if they don't put Android on them I won't buy one.
1 0 [Posted by: bbo320  | Date: 04/27/12 04:10:05 AM]
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7. 
All these analysis fail to consider that Nokia is just late in the game. They also couldn't compete quickly with what they have and can do.
Before Windows phone, I thought Nokia is going Android pretty soon together with Symbian products yet Microsoft probably knew this and gave Nokia an offer difficult to refuse. MS was quick to approach Nokia considering it as the largest phone maker needing help so that Windows phone OS gets the best possible exposure.

1. Cash incentive
2. Nokia knows MS can make better software
3. Differentiating from a flood of Android offerings.

I just wished their Pureview phone had better hardware and the MS OS.
0 0 [Posted by: zodiacfml  | Date: 04/28/12 11:26:07 PM]
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What do you mean by "better hardware"? They have super-fast DSP for handling that image processing; I'm quite sure no other phone has a DSP processor whose performance is even close to N808's imaging DSP's performance.

SymbianOS as an operating system is a bad thing, but WP7 isn't much better. And if they did not have drivers/hardware support for the imaging DSP ready for wp7, they could not release wp7 based version until they get the drivers etc ready (might take like half a year)

I'd rather take Harmattan-based version of 808 than WP7-based version, but all hope to that is now lost
0 0 [Posted by: hkultala  | Date: 04/30/12 12:16:47 AM]
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I was just not clear. Im not reffering to the camera hardware but the phone which had mediocre screen and other things.
0 0 [Posted by: zodiacfml  | Date: 04/30/12 09:31:20 PM]
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8. 
Nokia should return to symbian Bell etc, and get rid of stupid Elop. Sybian is currently gettting better than android and even ios. Windows will not work. Nokia die, or fire Elop. Three years waste of valuable time. Stupid Elop.
0 0 [Posted by: beerbash  | Date: 04/30/12 03:36:03 PM]
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