Ex-Nokia Executive: Windows Phone Does Not Allow Nokia to Realize Its Potential

Lee Williams: Nokia Should Have Stuck to Own Platform for Prosperous Long-Term Future

by Anton Shilov
04/25/2012 | 11:30 PM

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.