back to article Stephen Elop and the fall of Nokia revisited

The first English translation of Operation Elop, an examination by Finnish journalists into the final years of Nokia phones, has reignited debate about the fate of what was Europe's largest and most admired technology company. The translation comes three years after the book was published in Finland, but it gives English- …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

    From my happy experience of mid to low price Chinese phones, I think you'd find that the Chinese countryside was actually enjoying some pretty good products at prices people in the UK wouldn't believe.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

      Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

      In my local Carphone Warehouse you'd be spoilt for choice.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

        It's amazing where they find this junk, but then phone networks still seem to think that pushing their "own" shockingly customed, out of date from the start devices and abandoning them even faster that Samsung is a good idea.

        As for there not being any decend low cost mobiles, the author seems to have forgotten about Motorola who produced a lot of very good, low cost mobiles. The cameras were generally the weak point but for many users who really didn't care about the camera, occasional daylight snaps aside, they were more than adequate.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

          Nick Ryan,

          The Motorolas were later.

          When I bought my Windows Phone 7 Lumia 710, the cheapest Android phones were things like the HTC Wildfire - at about £150. Which they were still selling on Android 2.2 18 months after it came out, despite the fact that Android was on 2.3. I had a work Wildfire and it was OK, but sometimes laggy and crashed every so often.

          I bought the Lumia to replace the Wildfire for a year, then we got iPhone 5s (our batch mostly failed within 2 years, including 2 replacements). My next work phone was a Lumia 730, which I still have 21/2 years later.

          I think when I got that, the Motorola (E / M, can't remember?) had been out a few months. The first of the good cheap Moto's, at £150. My Lumia was £120. So I'd say you could get good cheap Droids from about 3 years ago.

          1. ThomH Silver badge

            Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

            I spent about six months using a Nokia Lumia 635; I purchased it in 2014 on some sort of promotion for around $50 rather than the equivalently-discounted Androids because the crapware AT&T were preloading made the Androids a lot less attractive. Microsoft always required that anything installed by a third party be removable and that the official software remain available. So instead of the AT&T-brand browser, file storage, music player, etc, being on my phone *instead* of Google's, they were there *as well as* Microsoft's.

            And they weren't there for long.

            It was a pretty good handset for ordinary phone tasks; the camera was obviously a couple of years behind but that's about all that was obviously slightly backwards. It probably helps that I'm not much of an app user nowadays.

            So I'd agree with the idea that Windows Phones were better value, not that long ago.

          2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

            @I ain't Spartacus

            I could have sworn that there was more of an overlap, but having looked the Lumia 710 came out about a year before the first Moto G phones. Luckily I guess I wasn't looking for a phone at that time!

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

              Ah, it was the Moto G. Thanks. My friend had one, it was a nice phone.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Sorry to thread jack

      Have to say that article ended with a bang. Maybe disagree with the decision but that is the best pants pissing quote I have heard from the C suite.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Lack of slurp potential?

    Did Symbian and Meego slurp data?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lack of slurp potential?

      With Symbian every AP could be configured to ask you to give permission for whatever app it is to connect to the net and you could call up a list of apps with open connections and close them if you wanted. No slurp potential there.

    2. James 47

      Re: Lack of slurp potential?

      Symbian's user-land apps were pretty restricted. Networks, however could pretty much give their own apps all the permissions in the world. So, they would have had to develop their own data-slurping advertising SDKs.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

    So what? Many people have to make choices between their professional and personal life, and are not compensated at all.

    I lost my fiancé when a project required more time and a big effort, and I had to cancel an important planned holiday with her. The company future depended on that project and if it had failed, probably I would have to look for another job. And being one of the tech lead, the failure would have been also a personal failure.

    I hoped she could understand, she didn't. I kept my job at least, but nobody gave me a compensation for the loss in my private life.

    And I guess Elop was not in so dire choice - probably it had to choose about many $$$$$ in Finland or little fewer $$$$ where he was.

    It looks like when Apotheker was fired, and they give him a compensation because after its utterly disastrous tenure at HP he would have not probably got another CEO role - poor lad, let's compensate incompetency?

    Really, it looks CEOs live in a different world made of gold and unicorns, not only they make tons of money but they also need to get more for any trouble they encounter in their lives, the same trouble common people face every day without the advantages, and with no compensations?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Funny that

      Sorry to hear that, dude.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Funny that

        So what? Never heard anyone say on their death bed "I wish I worked harder at work"

    2. SquidEmperor

      Lesson Learnt

      That sucks - and I'm sorry to hear it.

      We all have to make our own decisions re: life/work balance and often it's difficult to make the right call on each occasion. None the less I'd remind all of this critical statement:

      "What do you get from a lifetime of hard work?......a lifetime of hard work"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lesson Learnt

        Sometimes, you have little choice - I didn't pass over a promotion simply, and it wasn't hard work for the sake of it.

        The company was a startup - small but skilled team, and that was the first delivery of its main product. The customer was a F1 team (big reference, of course). And my role was critical. I felt I was also responsible for my team as well.

        I was laid off already a few years earlier, when that previous company hired an axman from IBM who decided to cut expenses by cutting the most expensive - and skilled - developers (it turned against them, but that's another story) - and again, no compensations.

        I found the new job - which I liked a lot - within a few months (did some consultancy and teaching meanwhile), but events like that leave a sour taste, and you don't want to start again from scratch every time (I don't work in Silicon Valley), especially when you had big plans for your future.

        What is bitterly ironic, is that had the project failed, the company gone bankrupt, and I lost the job and my income, the outcome would have been the same, I'm afraid.

        Probably, it was a lose-lose situation. That's life, and it happens. Just, sorry, I can't hear a poor CEO needs to be compensated for such events as well. Maybe the same CEOs who ask their underlings to work 60-80 hour a week and weekends just to improve their bonuses, menacing offshoring or lay offs otherwise.

        Were Nokia employees compensated the same way when Nokia was sold and the terminated?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lesson Learnt

          “What is bitterly ironic, is that had the project failed, the company gone bankrupt, and I lost the job and my income, the outcome would have been the same, I'm afraid.”

          Exactly that, and the reason that you made the right decision. Life is not about money, but modern life without money is not possible, unless both partners are willing to sacrifice or live alternative lifestyles. Life for non-CEOs is tough.

          Many CEOs have it tough too, not all of them work for large corporations, earn fortunes, and their lives can be ruined too...speaking from personal experience.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Many CEOs have it tough too"

            I wasn't talking about the many smaller companies owner, directors, executive and administrators who are usually on the same boat of their employees.

            It was about the rarefied world of large companies CEOs - like Elop - who ask for compensations for everything, from signing bonus to relocation ones to big bonuses to golden parachutes, each in the millions range.

            Up to the point that ensuring a profitable business for the company for years becomes less important - you can make more money by leaving early and jumping from company to company, and never be accountable for what you really did at each.

            It happened, for example, in Telecom Italia - the CEO had a contract that stated if he had to leave earlier, they had to pay a an exit bonus based on the worked years bonus. He cunningly achieved profits in his first year he couldn't match the remaining ones, and then left.

            Of course, you need accomplices to obtain such conditions and benefits, and cover your butts, but as long as that's a small "community" where each member take advantage of the situation, it's not hard to find them.

            I have no issue in rewarding skills and responsibilities, but when people get handsomely paid just to move their butts from one comfortable leather chair to another, it's clear the system has big issues.

            Was Elop really interested in the Nokia telephone business, or was just preparing his next hop?

            That while employee wages are mostly stagnant, and purchasing power often inferior of that of decades ago. But underlings can make debits, if they need money, so the upper echelon will also reap the benefits of interests paid by the lower one.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lesson Learnt

          one months pay for each year worked, plus bonus's and statutory redundancy etc plus funds to start a business if that way inclined

    3. Steve Channell

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Nokia didn’t cost his marriage, incompetent planning and execution cost his marriage. This was the fella that pretended he could commute from Seattle to Finland as part time CEO, part time family man... and failed at both.

      The failure of Nokia however is not primarily down to Elop, but an indication that Nokia got-lucky when their 2G phone design lasted all day when Motorola needed spare batteries. Nobody (including Nokia) had realised that a power-saving feature designed for poor Cell coverage in Finland could help in urban areas. When your corporate strategy is ‘get lucky’ it is no wonder political in-fighting wins out.

      Pity for poor Nokia is misplaced; they were but a walk-on-part in Steven Sinofsky’s car-crash of Windows 8 “hack off people’s toes, to make them buy our crutches”. WP7 was a great phone, with a couple of limitations {protected memory, single-core} that the NT kernel could fix... turns out, neither were really needed - Apple uses hardware compartments to hack the problem.

      1. Doug 3

        Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

        No, the collapse of Nokia happened too slowly since Elop had to have the plan to deliver Nokia to Microsoft.. It just took longer than they planned and so the result was less time at home, etc, etc.

        If there was any other motivation for Elop than there was a complete and utter failure in the Nokia board to understand who they were hiring to run the company. I mean you don't publicly announce your OS being shipped on millions of phones each day is being replaced with incompatible software and OS. A department store manager knows that sales will plummet immediately. You don't pick that new OS to be one with single digit market share even after the company making the OS has spent billions marketing it. And you don't say that using the most dominant OS, which is open source and free, is no choice because nobody can make money competing when there were dozens of companies making profits doing just that.

        You don't do those things. That is unless you want to harm the company enough to make it a tasty choice for Microsoft to purchase. And BTW, people were saying this since day one of his hiring at Nokia.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

          Sounds like you're better off without her tbh

    4. Lars Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Elop did not bring his wife, family (if he had a family) to Finland in the first place, so did he leave his wife or did she leave him. Not bringing his family with him gave the impression that his aim at Nokia was a short time effort like all his earlier efforts. He did not impress at any time*, either because he did not have it or because he had no intention to deliver had he had it, or the horse was the wrong horse.

      But let's not forget that it was the board who employed him, companies rot from the head, but I suppose they, unless bought, believed they did the right thing.

      But what the heck, lets read the book, and who has ever survived the touch of Microsoft. (Sendo anyone)

      Still Nokia, as Nokia Networks, is alive and in 2017 employed approximately 102,000 people across over 100 countries, did business in more than 130 countries, and reported annual revenues of around €23 billion.

      *foot in mouth, with that "burning platform".

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Any job that costs you a significant other means either your job or your choice in partners sucks. Am assuming of course not banging the secretary in which case you suck.

    6. veti Silver badge

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      It's sad that you lost your relationship - but you were compensated, you got the money and the glory you'd been promised. That was your choice. You could have chosen to walk away from the job and the project instead; but you stuck with them. That was your choice, and don't pretend you didn't make it.

      Tough break. But don't pretend that Elop's was less tough: arguably more so, because "marriage" implies a significantly deeper level of personal commitment than mere "engagement".

      Elop didn't get all those millions as "compensation" for losing his marriage: it was the reward he'd been promised, and the marriage couldn't survive the process of earning it. He made a choice, just like you; the personal outcome was the same; and he was "rewarded" just like you. The difference is that in his case, the gains of staying in the job were a lot bigger.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You could have chosen to walk away from the job"

        Sure - and while unemployed what could I have done? Good jobs don't grow on trees. Would you also hire people who when the game gets hard, quit? I encountered some of them, usually people selling skills they don't have, and as soon as they can't cover any longer, quit suddenly, rinse, and repeat.

        Walk away, while you still have bills and loans to pay - and everything else.

        Sure, if I had a couple of millions in an exit bonus (plus the signing bonus plus the relocation bonus) I could have done it without issues....

        I wasn't looking for glory, but yes, sometimes I'm also proud of my achievements and don't like failures. Nor I got more money just because that product delivery succeeded.

        When I'm in charge of other people, I also feel a responsibility for them and their families - a whole team suddenly unemployed is not something I would be proud of. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

        Sure, I made myself the choice it looked the more sensible to ensure a future. Moreover it was just a temporary situation - successive sales and deliveries were far more simple and didn't require anything like that. I've never been someone who sacrifices anything to a job - but I prefer to have a job that could pay for my family and its futures without issues.

        Just, someone gives everything for granted.

        It was the article stating that Elop's compensation was right because he divorced also.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Are the 2 downvotes from ex-Ceo’s. Lol

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    I've dumped lucrative roles to put my family first more than a couple of times.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Everyone has their own priorities. For some, it's climbing to the top of the tree regardless of cost. For others, it's about enjoying life.

      I generally enjoy my job, and it allows me to spend time doing my own thing (hobbies, spending time with other half, etc..)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Everyone has their own priorities."

        Just, it's not always black or white - there are many shades of gray, and not of the type of the popular book. Many choices are not so easy.

        Try to speak to people who lost their job, and then their family also because of that - because someone else royally screwed up. To some of them, you maybe can't even speak to any longer, because they killed themselves. Try to look your wife into her eyes, and confess her there are no money to pay the rent, and having to borrow from relatives or friends.

        Try to visit charities hosting divorced people who lost everything, even an house to live in.

        Sometimes, the priority is not to climb a tree or a ladder, but not having to descend it towards hell.

        On the other hands, there are people who like to piggyback others work, and reap the benefits created by those who keep the boat afloat.

        It's no surprise Dilbert has a character like Wally - they are quite common. It's easy to pontificate when you risk nothing.

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Likewise- it came down to the decision, did I want to spend all my time making money for other people, or did I want to spend some of that time with my family. Family won.

  5. DougS Silver badge

    He's responsible for Flash as well?!

    That's like being responsible for both the Nazi death camps AND the Nanking massacre!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

      No, he wasn't responsible for Flash itself. Flash became a the goto framework for interaction on websites and, hence, a money spinner for Macromedia. This in turn led Adobe to buy Macromedia and subsequently improve the video codec, which helped make YouTube popular and eventually end the video codec wars. It also served as the template for a lot of the later development of HTML 5.

      Flash was popular as a development environment for designers and Macromedia did the right thing in developing it for them. That the problems of the runtime would come back to haunt it has as much to do with its success as anything else: it was popular then ubiquitous long before it was a target. Nowadays it is an increasing irrelevancy, largely due to the availability of more secure, native alternatives.

      Credit where credit's due: Flash inspired a lot of people to develop "for the internet". Adobe has also done a reasonable job in maintaining Flash despite the many security flaws: reasonable in terms of having a plan for regular updates to exploits. Maybe they could have open-sourced the runtime but there might have been reasons against this such as containing licensed code. But by the time Google got behind the HTML 5 ball it was probably too late.

      I think I removed Flash from my machines in 2016 but it lives on in Chrome and IE because for some things there still aren't better alternatives.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

        This in turn led Adobe to buy Macromedia

        And who do you think put Macromedia up for sale to Adobe in the first place and then hopped across to Adobe after the sale was completed?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

          And who do you think put Macromedia up for sale to Adobe in the first place?

          The owners?

          I'm not a cheerleader for Elop and I thought at the time he made the wrong call at Nokia but at the same time I don't think he was responsible for all its ills (he was hired because the company was already in a mess) nor for Flash's many bugs.

          In the end he got a great deal for the owners in the sale of the handset business to Microsoft. Don't blame him for the fucked up capitalism that makes those kind of deals make sense. But if you want to look for a real train wreck compare what he did with Nokia to what Carly Fiorina did with Compaq, DEC and HP.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

            At the time Nokia's mobile division was sold to MS, the parent company was calling all the shots.

            After Elop returned to MS and was later fired, he went to Telstra. Have a look what he did there:

            Telstra writes off last $273 million in Silicon Valley tech start-up Ooyala

            He may not be as bad as Carly but he's trying hard to get there.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

      Kinda like Thomas Midgley:

      He invented leaded petrol and Freon.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

        He invented leaded petrol and Freon.

        True, and a lovely account of him in Bill Byrson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

        Course, it has since turned out that unleaded petrol has problems of its own: CH3

  6. Bob Vistakin

    Tut tut tut

    Seems there was no space to mention Elop being microsoft's 8th largest individual shareholder when he trojaned his way into the Nokia CEO slot, so I'll helpfully mention it now.

    1. sorry, what?

      Re: Tut tut tut

      Recycling an old comment, did you know that Elop backwards spells "I shafted Nokia"? Either that or "I do plumbing". And I don't think he does the latter, at least not as a job.

      As soon as he arrived we knew it would be Win D'ohs Phoney and nothing else. Disaster written all over the appointment. (I haven't read the book but I witnessed aspects of this "from the inside".)

  7. Ralph76

    Business Market Niche not spotted?

    I was always amazed that a decent work device was not released, and allowed Apple to keep that role. Apple phones are not really designed for work based use, especially with the majority being used in a MS windows Domain based environment. It is a device that sys-admins struggle to manage correctly - although MDM is changing that now.

    If Nokia had managed to provide a device that is domain aware, and managed via Group policy (with the help of Microsoft) and the historic reputation of how solid their hardware is. Coupled with the lack of data slurping, I could see Nokia carving a niche out for themselves that the others just cannot touch.

    Alas, it didn't go that way, I am still waiting for a device to fill that role and make my job a lot easier, especially as GDPR looms...

    1. jaywin

      Re: Business Market Niche not spotted?

      They tried, and probably would have succeeded, if MS hadn't taken a torpedo to each version of WP and restarted from scratch every couple of years. WP7 was a solid OS which just needed a bit more work to flesh out the features. WP8 ended up as a fairly solid OS which just needed a bit more work to flesh out the features. W10 (on mobile), well... no comment.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      They would have needed x86 emulation for that

      As win32 is kinda the core value of the Windows plattform.

      If I was working at Microsoft I'd start a program to develop some "RDP-like" solution which cuts up up the GUI around its elements and re-positions it to work with mobile devices. (Automatic or guided by some additional files)

      This would bring most Windows software (which is legacy anyhow) to mobile devices without the hassle of having unusable interfaces.

      1. James Anderson

        Re: They would have needed x86 emulation for that

        How would you fit the 40 plus icons on the ribbon on to a 2 x 3 inch screen?

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: They would have needed x86 emulation for that

          "How would you fit the 40 plus icons on the ribbon on to a 2 x 3 inch screen?"

          I'd say that 90% of the programs used in companies today predates that ribbon nonsense by one or two decades. Remember, the golden age for Windows GUI software was in the 1990s and early 2000s. After that people made web applications whenever possible.

      2. JoJ

        Re: They would have needed x86 emulation for that

        How about you just serialise the GUI APIs and I am sure that local rendering can be made to follow some more appropriate rules for the device screen.

    3. Blotto Bronze badge

      Re: Business Market Niche not spotted?


      there was this Canadian company called Research In Motion who owned a brand called BlackBerry that made corporate focussed mobile messaging and phoning devices, coupled with an Enterprise Server. At a time when carriers charged for text messages BlackBerry's with BES could send messages between each other for free as well as being able to send and receive corporate emails. The best thing was that all comms between the mobile blackberry and the corporate where encrypted so that the carrier or RIM could not read the content. It became very popular with government and companies that needed secure comms at the time & the BES fine control of what the remote could or couldn't do. The BES also permitted remote wiping of the handset in the e vent it became lost or stolen.

      Yes it also became popular with teenagers at the time, but i think that was due to the cheap messaging (BBM) and the devices ease of tapping out said messages.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    See also in El Reg today

    Perhaps it was all part of the plan to make us use Huawei and their like?

    I thought I was not a conspiracy theorist, I no longer know.

    1. SquidEmperor

      Re: See also in El Reg today

      You're nuts

      (we have you name, we will be in touch)

      Trust no one.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: See also in El Reg today

        "Trust no one"

        Ooooh, I see what you did there. Don't tell me what to do...!


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019