Sometimes you get the bear … other times, the bear gets you

This took guts. The (new) CEO of Nokia noting that there are issues going forward. Nokia has had great handsets. I still recall with great fondness, the E61 that I left in a taxi somewhere in London after visiting a customer …

But Nokia hasn’t innovated in a meaningful way, hasn’t adapted well to the rapid change in market conditions. Like RIM, their phones are competent, excellent phones. Unlike Apple and Google/Android, their phones don’t have a great user experience.

I have a private (family) cell which is a blackberry. Long story, but we got it for free when my wife upgraded. Until the blackberry 6 OS, I’d say that RIM was in deep trouble on the user experience front. Their “OS” is really one large Java application. And if you know anything about Java, you know it is slow on every platform. Very much including small portable low power CPU platforms. The OS v6 is actually not bad. Pretty easy to use, a radical departure on many fronts from a traditional blackberry OS. Give it a touch screen and a few other things, and it could be interesting.

But Nokia … they don’t have much like this. They had the N900 … roughly a way early version of an iPad, without some of the bells and whistles. They don’t have a consistent baseline OS strategy. They don’t have a modern look and feel.

There is lots to like about the iOS (and Android) platforms as a user. Stuff works, and is pretty intuitive. Mostly smooth functioning, though the Android units do feel slower or more clunky in some aspects than the iPhone unit.

Nokia’s problem is that it has all the legacy, and none of the “sizzle” this market demands. Which is a problem.

And their CEO recognized this, and wrote about it. Which is good.

His next action? Well … not so good. His employees noted that partnering with Microsoft for Windows Phone 7 … isn’t likely to be a successful venture.

But you can ignore the employees … right? What about the market? What did it say?

Nokia stock performance after Microsoft announcement

Erp …. not good.

In fact theres no single general consensus emerging, but two disparate camps. One says “great for these folks”. The other notes that Windows phone 7 is pretty much a non-player/non-entity in the phone market.

Motley Fool has this to say

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) CEO Stephen Elop turned heads this week, when an internal memo leaked. “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform,” he wrote. I love Elop’s frank assessment. Nokia has a right to be blunt. However, just because you realize the problem, that doesn’t mean that there’s a feasible solution.

The NYTimes (yeah, not exactly either objective, or even rational at times) says this:

Mr. Elop joined Nokia last September, and was recruited from Microsoft, where he was a senior executive. ?But the obvious choice for Nokia is Android,? Mr. Colony said. ?Microsoft would be the higher risk path.?

Barrons polled a number of groups, and some were blunt.

Tero Kuittinen, MKM Partners: Reiterates a Neutral rating. ?CEO Elop failed to meet high expectations for an effective new strategy, as we had expected, ending up with a clumsy mix of long-term Windows plans and fading support for Symbian and MeeGo,? he writes. That could be an opportunity for Research in Motion. Kuittinen expects that carriers may switch support (marketing and subsidies) from existing Nokia devices to RIM phones, as Elop?s remarks about Symbian were ?disparaging.? Kuittinen recommends using any uptick in Nokia shares to sell. If Nokia doesn?t have Windows models by the fourth quarter of this year, ?would cause profound problems for that quarter?s profitability.?

Its rare, if ever, you get to identify exactly the moment that a company, product, market, etc. jumps the shark. I think, in this case, we can see it very well defined for us.

Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you. The latter just happened to Nokia.

Sad, as I still think the E7x series are excellent phones. But I can say with pretty good confidence, that my next smart phone will either be an iPhone on Verizon, or an Android on Verizon. Just waiting for the LTE support to finish rolling out, and my AT&T contract for the 3Gs to end this year. Nokia, for me, isn’t in the running. The Blackberry is nice, but the application ecosystem isn’t that good (and stuff is expensive for it). Nokia doesn’t have a meaningful ecosystem. And its the ecosystem that is driving momentum. Which is why they needed to switch. But they didn’t switch to a viable platform.

[update] There are quite a few stories about this hookup, and what it means. One of the most cogent, specifically calling out Nokia’s problems is this.

Take away quotes

Apple and Google are winning because they have winning strategies. Nokia is losing because it has a losing strategy. It’s as simple as that.


Nokia should have embraced Google, not Microsoft, for one simple reason: Android has apps.


Second, Nokia should design and build the ultimate smartphone based on Windows Phone 7. It should provide a much better call quality than the iPhone (not hard to do), have a better camera, better screen, better everything than existing smartphones.

The company should ban Symbian, MeeGo, all product forking, ugly design and the use of numbers in model names. It should embrace radical minimalism and beauty in all hardware and marketing.

Is it possible for Nokia to build a seriously-kick-butt phone running windows phone 7? I doubt it. Not that they hardware is a problem. The issue is the software layer. Really.

When I had a Windows CE phone a while ago, I ran away screaming. Battery life was terrible. Measured in hours for my normal work day. User interface was terrible. Taking the worst elements of the desktop interface and grafting them onto a mobile phone is not a good idea. One handed operation is effectively impossible, and you can’t even answer the phone without looking at it. Which means significant safety issues. That was true on the older stack, and I guess I am having trouble believing that this problem has been fixed. The joy of having to kill processes, by hand, every night …

No. That is wrong. At so many levels that is wrong.

Without a complete redesign/rework of the software platform, from the ground up for low power devices, to make it as painless, as simple as possible to use … I just can’t see MSFT doing this.

But I am also amused by the bloggers point that numbers in product names doesn’t make sense. This is actually something we eschew as well. Such things rarely if ever make sense to customers. You can keep internal project designators … but a 2910 doesn’t quite tell you what the product is, what it does, etc. Makes it real hard to brand. Forces you to use a search engine to find your product. On your own web site.

Which means you have failed at marketing.

The bloggers point is that Nokia has failed at this (among many other things). I don’t disagree. But he also made the point that the tieup was irrelevant in light of the other issue.

Possibly. I am not sure.

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2 thoughts on “Sometimes you get the bear … other times, the bear gets you

  1. @Stephen

    Yup … Trolltech’s future (within Nokia) is arguably very much in doubt. I’ve seen a few bloggers talk obliquely about this … in passing at best.

    Qt’s days could be numbered at Nokia. Why develop another layer when you don’t need to. It is open source, so risk is more aggravation over its future than anything else

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