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back to article What sealed Nokia's fate?

"Nokia and Symbian was the last of the European software business, it's gone overnight. That's depressing," an industry veteran told me on Friday afternoon. As I wrote several years ago, Nokia was a company that could set global standards for consumer electronics, and do so from a cold and remote corner of Europe, using its own …

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Not unpopular..

"I'll offer another Unpopular Opinion here: that WP7 is really remarkably good already." - most commentators have reached the same conclusion. Having used it in a shop, I agree, it's nice, it's different, it works, it's intuitive (not that I was allowed to try anything fancy). Having used a relatively recent Nokia, it's a step forward.

For me, as with the iPhone, the issue is not Microsoft, but the closed nature of the platform - sooner or later I'll sell my soul to the devil, okay, Google, and even though I don't want to turn Android*, it's probably going to be my fate - but it will be a reference model, I'm just waiting for all the new toys at MWC to drive down the price of the Nexus S.

*Free banana** to whomever sources the quote

** Collected from Scotland after my banana tree has grown...

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generally, yes

OK things like "changing the microSD card causes WP7 to restore factory defaults" are double-plus-ungood, but you notice some of the opposition have no removable storage at all.

I'm on record elsewhere as explaining that, no matter how good the code and UI might be in the short term, I have no faith in the long term, having been burned too many times before.

What is surprising is that a company the size of Microsoft can take so long to come up with something that is only "remarkably good" and that it is "remarkably good" at doing only what everyone else is already doing.

Surprise me, Nokia and Redmond. Think of something new.

Remember that Black guy from "AD2000" who had a sony logo on his eyebrow? Built-in TV and cellphone? That would do for a start.

Or if you want something simpler, look at my Jabra Stone bluetooth headset. I have to dock it with the battery to charge it up. Why can't I dock it with the phone? And the act of undocking it confirms the pairing?

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Here I go...

The reference is from Brainstorm by Hawkwind and I claim my prize. I'm near Elgin - I can call & collect.

Rev. Andy

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You mean 2000AD

Specifically, you mean Ramone Dexter from Sinister/Dexter.

Also, WP7 is remarkably good at not making you poke through fourteen levels of shit to find out what you want.

This is an improvement on both iOS and Android. A significant improvement.

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that's the bunny!

@dogged:

>Specifically, you mean Ramone Dexter from Sinister/Dexter.

You clearly have a better memory than I. A trawl through the character names on their web site does raise a smile.

Ta.

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Standing on the runway, waiting for take-off

'Brainstorm' from the best time of the best band of all time...

Got my own banana though, thanks.

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Your Android replica is playing up again, it's no joke...

and that's the Spirit of the Age.

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Flame

Why do people always confuse OS and UI?!

Symbian is custom built from the ground up as an efficient, purpose built OS for handhelds.

The OS has never been the issue.

People complain about Symbian v3 on the N8 for example, about how individual widgets can't be moved around or such other nonsense. However, download an "app" for £25 and the UI is transformed. Amazingly transformed. If a third party can so effectively skin the N8, then why can't Nokia at least give users the option of a sleeker UI for those who don't necessarily want the standard Nokia offering?

It's staggering how Nokia saw the future 10+ years ago and began catering to it. They began to offer products ahead of their time. They saw the threat from MS and formed an alliance. And despite all that, it's equally staggering how they managed to cock it all up.

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WTF?

since when was Microsoft open?

Most platforms are closed, perhaps they might be ubiquitous but that doesn't make them any less closed.

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N8 UI

>Mark Jan,

Tell us the name of the 'app' you're referring to for N8 UI?

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There's confusion over 'open'

In this context, my interpretation of 'open' is tool that are easily available and easy to use and apps that are easy to create. Nokia may have scored on the first two but failed on the 3rd. Yes, in part it was difficult because the platform is relatively robust. But it was difficult because there's no high level framework so developers needed to complete an apprenticeship in Symbian development to have a hope.

So productivity is low in that environment compared to others and that's the difference to me.

Android, WP7 and iPhone are much more open in the sense they are accessible. If you've a choice between spending 12 months developing an app for one platform or the same 12 months and covering 2 or 3 what would you do? Developers of all stripe have voted with their time.

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Megaphone

SPB mobile shell

The SPB mobile shell transforms it to something useful. Same applies to winmobile 6.5 and S60 v5 devices.

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It all went downhill from 2003

Nokia started spending billions on share buybacks rather than investing in new products or markets in 2003; trying to appease major shareholders in the short term, whilst jeopardising the company's long term future. All downhill from there.

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Kind'a

Bureacracy is not necessarily the show-stopper to innovation. IBM is a good example to that. It is a bureacracy on par with great bureaucratic states. However, it continues to produce innovative stuff till this day.

Nokia problem lies elsewhere - it tried to graft an utterly foreign management culture (matrix portfolio management) on top of an existing traditional "we are not particularly commercial" R&D culture. As a result instead of getting a more efficient R&D and more efficient concept to market it ground to a halt.

A donkey is not the nicest form of transport, but it can go at its pace and get to places. A horse will get there faster if you of course have one. A donkey with the front torso of a horse grafted surgically onto it is guaranteed to die regardless of the amount of immunupressants you stuff it with. The donkey body will be rejecting the "horse head" and vice versa. As a result you will have neither.

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Anonymous Coward

Nokia made plenty of investment during that period.

In fact, Nokia's R&D expenditures were far greater, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of revenue than any of its competitors. Yet it still failed. So it's R&D is incompetent or its management is. The major shareholders should have kicked out the Finns and put in a real management team 10 years ago.

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Paris Hilton

So you are saying I might as well stop flogging it?

"A donkey with the front torso of a horse grafted surgically onto it is guaranteed to die regardless of the amount of immunupressants you stuff it with."

I wish you'd told me this yesterday.

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eh

"Opinion here: that WP7 is really remarkably good already. If it wasn't called Microsoft Windows Phone 7, and had instead originated with a plucky startup more people would be able to appreciate it better."

Opinion in my company where we have several win7 phone users is that it is rubbish. Missing major functions, drops calls, crashes all the time. They all want different phones, I am thankful I held off being one of the first wave to get the new OS.

"And Apple had a bundled data plan, so trying it all out was risk-free."

As long as you consider signing up for a 2 year contract at ~£50 per month which you were tied to even if you didn't like the phone, risk free.

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@Ryan Clark

The Apple statement was comparative. Unlimited data for £35/month in 2007 (so, 30% less than you seem to think) was a good deal and the risks are compared to picking some other smartphone. Obviously that's more risk than subscribing to a magazine, less than buying a house. And the iPhone is on the same price plans as everyone else now.

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Please.

Have a whinge if you want but the iPhone came out with an 18-month contract at £35 a month. Whinge accurately if you feel you have to.

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That's the problem with the anti-Applers

they ALWAYS get their facts wrong. They get them wrong because they've never bought/been given an Apple product and their whole outlook is a byproduct of that injustice.

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Bureaucracy

The bureaucracy within Nokia seems to have been known to everyone but Nokia itself.

I was casting around for R&D jobs about 7-8 years ago, and a senior recruiting agency told me quite bluntly that the Nokia culture was so suffocating that they wouldn't even put it on a list for consideration. I would have been further depressed if I'd found myself working for the company that made the N80.

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Coffee/keyboard

Oh, don't they know it

It's not like they can't see the wishy washy focused-on-the-short-term management-by-spreadsheet layer for what it is. I'm not going to air any dirty laundry here, tempted as I am. Suffice to say, the best part is the same managers are going to be the ones left in the "new Nokia", while engineers get the boot.

That's not coffee on my keyboard.

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Boffin

Corrections

"But Nokia took so long bringing Qt to Symbian and Linux that the job was really finished even when Elop announced his revolution last Friday."

Well, Qt already worked on Linux, even embedded Linux, as the Greenphone demonstrated back when Trolltech was independent and trying to get phone vendors to give it a shot, so maybe you mean "Nokia-sponsored Linux". And what does "the job was really finished" mean in the context of the sentence? That they had already completed the work - largely true, as far as I know - or that it was doomed?

"Elop is correct in identifying Android as a mad sharkpool of manufacturers thrashing around in chase of a tiny profit, eating each other in the process. If he had to plump for an OS to license, of the two, WP was the better choice."

Yes, but unless the Android manufacturers do nothing to differentiate themselves at all (and market themselves to punters as "ANDROIDS IN UR FACE" just to wind them up), they'll always have something to offer that's different from the others. Motorola offers their MotoBlur stuff, for example. And doing the work on Android is going to be a lot easier than haggling with Microsoft all the time.

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Exactly

If you want to differentiate with Android - you can.

Example: Sony Ericsson

Started with a number of rather not particularly inspiring Xperias - Mini, Mini-Pro and the X10. Exactly a shark in a shark pool. Now that shark has clearly outgrown the pool. The Arc and the Play are frankly in a league of their own compare to the HTC/LG/Samsung lookalikes.

I do not salivate often over a gadget, but looking at either the Play or the Arc I catch myself thinking on what my gadget budget is for this month.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Exactly

"If you want to differentiate with Android - you can."

Indeed. All these people saying that "Oh! WP7 is different from Android, and Android is the same as Android, so WP7 is the only way to differentiate!" are precisely the kind of intellectually-vacant management drones and market analysts that stick superficial labels on things and come to their feeble conclusions without ever having to bother themselves with the important details that actually matter, like the details of the hard work that has to be done to get a product to market. After all, the hard work is done by the little people who are apparently expendable, while analysts see the "big picture".

Anyone who has had anything to do with analysts and the kind of people who patronise them know very well what charlatanry it all is.

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Jobs Halo

OS updates?

good luck with that!

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Go

u don't avoid Android by going MS

It may be that bringing yet another Adroid phone to market has competition. And competition can limit your proift potential. But, neither Microsoft, RIM nor Apple avoid that competition.

A WM7 phone is not in a different market just because it is not based upon Android.

They all compete for the likes of consumers. And it matters little how similar or dissimilar the Android phones may be. WM7 phones still have to compete against Android phones. Same with Apple. And RIM.

Avoiding Android absolutely does not assure any competing product of success. It may be different in some ways. But, you still have to compete against all of those Android phones. They do not go away just because you do not use the same OS.

Simply put, not coming out with an Android phone is no solution to the competition that Android phones bring to the market. The same market you are trying to sell your WM7, IOS or RIM unit.

Another way to look at it, not using Android does not assure you that your margins will be high. You still compete against phones that have lower margins and most likely lower prices for consumers.

The other big mistake that Elop has made is that helping out Microsoft in adopting the WM phone does not help Nokia. It may be true that customers might benefit from 3 or 4 strong competitors but such a fact does not mean they will by from Nokia. Customers evaluate products not the decisions by vendors trying to level a compeitive field.

Nokia is making a big mistake now by not coming out with an Adroid based phone. And a WM7 phone if you insist. Or, not doing a better job with their own. But, the thinking coming from Elop only proves he is still working for Microsoft at the expense of Nokia.

That kind of thinking will do in Nokia. Probably beyond recovery no matter what they may do 6 months down the road. Or, a year?

Putting your head in the sand and ignoring your competitors will kill you off every time.

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Anonymous Coward

Question

Would I buy a Nokia running Android? Yes.

Would I buy a Nokia running Windows? No.

Simples.

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Stop

The differentiation is there, btw...

Playing with the Atrix and having tried the Xoom I have to say that Motorola is taking the topic of differentiating seriously. Quite impressive if you've known Motorola since the HT200 days.

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Megaphone

@AC 22:13

"Would I buy a Nokia running Android? Yes.

Would I buy a Nokia running Windows? No.

Simples."

Having owned many Nokia phones over the years and 1 Android phone. I would definitely own a Nokia again, I'm not so sure about owning an Android again. The only killer app I get on the Android is work and home e-mail on the same device. The rest of it is meh. And just over a year after getting it, the weaknesses in the OS are showing through. I'm probably going to have to factory reset to get the responsiveness back. I never in my life had to factory reset a Nokia. I might give a WM7 Nokia a go - seriously.

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Flame

One word

Elop. He is just on a mission for Ballmer to save Microsofts mobile platform. Thats what happened to Nokia.

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Gates Horns

That is also a mission approved by large institutional shareholders

Which have investment in... Counting once... twice... thrice...

Both Microsoft and Nokia. And probably more in Microsoft.

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absolutely

There is no question that Elop is trying to save Microsoft by throwing Nokia under the bus.

His logic makes no sense from the viewpoint of Nokia. And is clearly something that Ballmer would like. Making Microsoft happy (he still holds a huge amount of Microsoft stock) while driving Nokia into the ground can get you shot.

The only way to save Nokia is to immediately can Elop. Then hire a CEO that will act in the best interest of Nokia not only Microsoft.

The industry does not need WM7 to be in the top three. If it can even get there. RIM, Android and IOS will be fine. RIM is closed. IOS is closed. Android is open and fully available for customization, differentiation and innovation.

Elop thinks that if you ignore the best choice it will go away. Android will eat Nokia's lunch.

Nokia needs to be OS agnostic. Clearly if it wants to compete against other handset mfgs. RIM controls their own OS. Same with Apple. Nokia is trapped and controlled by Microsoft. There is little or no chance for any success for Nokia.

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IOS/'Droid/Symbian/WinMob:

My choice with these four was simple (WP7 I ain't tried yet): the one that connected seamlessly to *whatever computer I happened to be at*, without making me install idiotic software so it could 'sync' (god, how I hate that word) and/or make me want to punch myself in the face with frustration throughout the entire process, and I am looking VERY HARD in your direction here, WinMob.

I used to love Nokias, till they became buggy, unusable blobs. I'll reserve judgement on WP7 till I've had a go of someone else's whose been crazy enough to gamble on one.

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RE: IOS/'Droid/Symbian/WinMob

"My choice with these four was simple (WP7 I ain't tried yet): the one that connected seamlessly to *whatever computer I happened to be at*, without making me install idiotic software so it could 'sync' (god, how I hate that word) and/or make me want to punch myself in the face with frustration throughout the entire process,"

So now you must be happy with your Android now - enable auto-mount USB first time and forget it; easy as 1-2-3, right? :)

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Troll

I don't know about Android....

Symbian is pretty good at this too: plug my EricSony W995i into any computer and it appears as a USB disk. It can also appear as a digital camera (you only see photos), and when in that mode it works seamlessly with DigiKam. All of the above on Linux, I've never tried Windows but I doubt it would be an issue - just don't bother installing all the crap software on the CD that comes with the phone.

Have a troll in memory of the Qt guys now wondering about their future.

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FAIL

The REAL Unpopular Opinion

"Elop's problem is that historically you can't really take a large bureaucracy and expect a lean, mean fighting machine to emerge. You usually just get a smaller bureaucracy."

The is that Elop is not alone in his delusion. It is shared by executives in most (if not all) big companies around the world. It is this single delusion that is the reason they fail.

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unless

Barry Obama rides to the rescue and nationalizes your car company for a few years first. Long live government motors.

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Unhappy

bureaucracy

"...You usually just get a smaller bureaucracy." ... "...Elop is not alone in his delusion. It is shared by executives in most (if not all) big companies around the world. "

True. Compare IBM, where Gerstner thought he'd chopped the heads off the bureaucracy and made the elephant dance, but ten years later the bureaucracy has grown new heads and is back to full strength. (I don't work there any more.)

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FAIL

Gerstners Bureaucracy

The only decent thing Gerstner did was hack off some of the breathing-but-dead bodies running IBM. After that, his flaccid management style resulted in many billions of dollars in losses-- the bleeding continues today although tailing off, but is swamped by higher performing management. G left before the wheels fell off again, at least he (or his handlers) realized he was a mental minnow in shark infested waters.

Back then, no lawsuits for such huge losses... different now. Elop will escape that potential fate, as everyone (that is, everyone with financial weight...) thinks he is doing the right thing.

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He knows...

Look at it from Elop's POV. He's offered a nice package by Nokia to come in and try to do what the investors know needs to be done. It doesn't even matter if it is possible or not. Make the package big enough, the umbrella heavily gilt, and hand him the Don Quixote suit. In three years he's away on his next adventure with plenty to pay for the twins college.

The whole Microsoft plant notion, while amusing, makes little sense unless someone can point out the compelling payoff. Loyalty? Please. He'd barely arrived at Microsoft.

I applaud his divestiture of MSFT but what was he thinking buying NOK? Geez...buy BIDU and AAPL...give the conspiracy nuts something to work with!

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FAIL

IMHO

IMHO, the point at which it all went irretrievably to the dogs was the point twelve months ago where they effectively killed Maemo and the N900 successor to tit around with Intel on MeeGo which produced exactly nothing. You can't spend a year doing nothing in this business.

If Nokia had kept up the momentum from when the N900 hit the streets 15 months ago with another more polished and faster Maemo device then it would have a chance.

Maemo was a skunkworks that wasn't allowed to reach its full potential. Perhaps it would be interesting to see another skunkworks project working with Android.. after all, all the other major WP7 shops also have Android devices.

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FAIL

It didn't need to end this way...

Agreed that the bureaucracy has been the problem at Nokia. And rather than fixing the bureaucracy, Elop has neutralized what competitive advantage Nokia had and destroyed the company in the space of a week.

Regardless of the technical merits of any of the systems, Symbian (and emerging Qt) had a larger "ecosystem" than WP7, and a good migration story to Meego. Qt developers could develop for Symbian, gaining access to the huge installed base, while being assured that their investment was future-proof thanks to the cross-platform nature of Qt.

Now nobody is going to invest in Qt development - so Symbian is finished. But there's no reason to invest in WP7 either, since there's no installed base. If the platform does take off in a year or two, then you can always hire developers then to port over your apps. In the meantime, the risk is too great.

What kind of an idiot kills off his existing platform while he's still a year away from having a successor?

[Posting anonymously because Nokia is a huge client of my company. They were nice people - sad to see them go.]

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Megaphone

Qt pipedream

There is a lot of fantasy behind the Qt migration story. The UI for a multitouch, capacitative touchsceen is very different from an old-school resistive Symbian smartphone screen (just as it is very different from a mouse/keyboard app on a traditional PC). The idea that you could code once and run elegantly on both without major rework was wishful thinking. (Another reason Elop was right to finally call time of death on Symbian.)

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Most S60 devices didn't have touchscreens

I don't suppose it matters but most S60 devices and AFAIR, all E-Series, do not have a touch screen of any sort. The reason I bought and still buy the phones. (I'm building a small supply to last for a while.)

Oh, and these folks that keep saying WM7 is a good OS, the phrase you are looking for is "WM7 works a lot like the original iPhone". The design rule is simple, if you make a UI for idiots you either make a feature understandable by idiots or don't put it in the product. Explains the lack of features, which explains why the UI is so simple, no decisions left to the user. Just think of all those folks that watch 4:3 TV at 16:9 and why an "aspect" button started appearing on the remote. Now if they could just teach them what "aspect ratio" means.

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Go

if not your own

If Nokia is not going to focus totally upon its own technology then it has to compete with other mfgs that also go with multiple platforms. They are your competitors. Google is not.

Coming out with an Android phone and a WM7 phone might make sense. Nokia could ride what ever wave shows up. If could even put the same front end on Android and WM7 (if MS would allow it).

Jumping ship hoping to land on WM before you crash and burn completely is just stupid.

Holding too much Microsoft stock killed off Nokia. The board should know better.

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Boffin

What kind of idiot?

What you're describing is known as the Osborne Effect (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_effect). I had direct personal experience with the original... and now feel like a pole is being stuck backwards up the posterior of all (former) friends of Nokia.

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N900

The N900 is still the best phone I've ever used. It's a shame that Nokia kept going down the road of dropping support for devices, therefore alienating their key customers, the ones who'll always come back later, why buy from Nokia if PR1.4 isn't going to be released? Why buy into the N900 now which *was* going to have community supported Meego (and can run Android)?

Nokia and Intel could have made Meego an amazing story, sticking it onto a myriad of devices from computers to GPS and having a mobile or tablet in the middle so you'd be able to start your work on your PC, relax on the sofa doing more work on your tablet before grabbing your mobile and finishing off your work on the train, a total solution, not anymore :-/

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Agreed

I love my N900, shame Nokia didn't. The forums were clogged up with endless pleading for flash support considering that's what quite a few people bought it for... I wasn't that bothered with Flash, but the rest of the interface I've found great - robust, good quality hardware with a proppa keyboard, and jumping between multiple applications just flows really nicely.

Sent via my N90... sorry, we have stopped supporting this function.

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There must be different N900's in the world.

After reading the maemo forums and being an N900 owner I have to disagree. I can't send this via my N900 because it is a truly shocking piece of kit that won't connect to the internet and MicroB is too slow to waste my life watching it load up a web site, never before has anything been so appallingly built and sold. Whether it is lack of support from Nokia or commercial decisions not to do something (flash, MMS) it was flawed when made. Hardware reports on the forums also point to massive differences in manufacture, loose interior connections being the main one, many people for example (Me included) can't actually turn on the computer without first opening the keyboard and then closing it which must somehow register the OS to allow the on button to work. I have to try three different attempts to get it to turn on, each press does something different before it actually loads up, so software integration isn't upto much either. I mean so many people have had to overclock their phone to get a good response, yet not asked why they needed to overclock poor hardware and software in the first place.

Even now 13 months on it still doesn't have anywhere near the support of a manufacturer that cared (OVI suite doesn't support it, there is no OVI store.) But with 3 people on maemo and 10 on meego it is any wonder? That is the problem with Nokia, pushing into an area and then changing their minds and not truly supporting leaving a lot of annoyed people behind, then moving too slow so everyother phone outstrips you.

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