Linked by David Adams on Sun 14th Jul 2013 17:49 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless A perennial question that revolves around Nokia is: why didn't it choose to go with Android to replace Symbian when it decided to kill that as its smartphone operating system in late 2010?
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[Thom to Nelson] You're spinning again.

This is true; but then, so are you. By Jan 2011 Symbian sales weren't worth shit in themselves; maybe a bit of revenue (assuming margins could be maintained) to keep stockholders on board for a few more quarters, but that's all.

All Nokia's existing Symbian base was actually good for was 1. buying its senior management a little more time in which to get its sorry act together and ship a viable replacement, and 2. once released, bootstrapping that replacement with with an instant 20-30% market share(!)


Had Elop done the sensible thing and circulated his 'burning platform' memo amongst major department heads only as absolute-top-secret-on-pain-of-death instead of across the entire company as he did, it still would have had enough of the desired effect (i.e. motivating indolent and apathetic senior management to make radical changes while they still had time) without incurring a 99.999% risk of instant press leak.

Elop's was a single incredibly dumb newbie error, saying in public what should've been private. I've no doubt he was sincere (he was certainly right), but it showed a stunning lack of people-awareness skills for someone given that level of responsibility. I suspect Stephen Elop fancied himself as the next Steve Jobs, forgetting that it took Jobs a decade of his own leadership screwups plus another decade in the wilderness properly learning his craft to become the sort of CEO whose entire staff would rather throw themselves under trucks than leak a critical memo.

Before that memo leaked, Nokia had about a year of leeway in which to get their new WinPhone platform shipping plus maybe a hundred million existing customers they could quickly and smoothly migrate across in order to create an instant mass audience for WinPhone and allow it to challenge Android directly. Those were the two utterly priceless assets they had, and they lost both the moment that memo went public.

Symbian sales and revenue - which is what most armchair commentators seem to think most important - were almost irrelevant next to time and customer base. Heck, if they'd had to, Nokia could've ridden out that year on cuts, savings and loans, even giving away Symbian to keep those bums on seats just another year more. Their Symbian-to-WinPhone transition could've been a strategic masterstroke that would've had Elop hailed as the Third Coming of the Saint Jobs; instead it was a total faceplant that's done huge damage both the company's standing and his own.

Nokia should've pleasantly spent the last 18 months [re]building significant market share atop an easy starting point of a hundred million instant Symbian-WinPhone switchers. Instead, they've now having to rebuild their entire market share entirely from scratch, using an OS platform that is now - rightly or wrongly - forever tainted in the public perception largely thanks to their amateur mishandling of it.

I won't rule Nokia out just yet - occasionally others have fought their way back from similarly dire odds (e.g. Apple, Mozilla) - but their chances of recovery still aren't great and compared to what they could have had if they'd only played their original hand better... eesh.

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