back to article It's been 5 years already, let's gawp at Microsoft and Nokia's bloodbath

Five years have passed but the wounds left by the acquisition and dismemberment of Europe's biggest technology company at the hands of Microsoft remain open. Nokia today is a considerable multinational, of course, booking €23.15bn in FY2017. But that's around half of what Nokia was at its peak in 2007 (€51.6bn). It's the …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only 5 years??

    Shouldn't the tale stretch back longer, with Elop first heading to Nokia to ruin things prior to M$ taking over??

    No great surprise that when he went back to Microsoft he was a spectacular failure there as well.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Only 5 years??

      No great surprise that when he went back to Microsoft he was a spectacular failure there as well.

      Let's be fair to the guy, Nokia had made their own bed and shit in it before Elop arrived, and Microsoft have been doing likewise for years. Given the sheer inertia and navel gazing nature of both Nokia and MS, you'd have have the skills to start a new religion to be successful at either place.

      The curious thing for both Nokia and MS was that in the mobile devices space they'd screwed up through poor execution, and for no obvious reason (other than wishful thinking) each thought the other would bring a solution that quickly lead to mobile success.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only 5 years??

        Granted it was never going to maintain market position, but the numbers speak for themselves; smartphone market share down to 3% and stock price down 64%.

        Thats top drawer incompetence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only 5 years??

          But are Microsoft any better today? They have a huge catalogue of failing products, the Xbox One disaster, Windows 10 (aka windows 8.2) so bad they had to give it away, office suites that have not added any worthwhile featured for a decade, their development tools (TFS) stuck in the dark ages

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

        It's no surprise that better devices came from handheld devices makes like Palm/Handspring first, and later from companies like Apple and Google, with no previous experience in phones. Nokia tried for too long to make phones with some computing capabilities, instead of handheld devices which could also make phone calls.

        Maemo/Meego arrived too late and was an half-attempt (the UI, but not only) - it appealed only to Linux die-hard fans who wanted an handheld Linux devices, for most people it wasn't the smartphone they were looking for. Maybe Nokia should have bought Android before it was by Google.

        MS didn't help with Windows Phone going through incompatible iterations - it would have required a long-term investment and a lot of work to make it a competitive product.

        People like Nadella like easy challenges and quick returns, they will run away from difficult ones, still the lack of a mobile platform is working against Windows in the long term, especially as the new model is just worst for most consumers who have to fight with continuous releases and data slurping.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition


          I think your comment "People like Nadella like easy challenges and quick returns, they will run away from difficult ones," is telling.

          Commitment to a product, getting the product right and supporting that product. Where did these basic concepts go?

          1. Andrew Williams

            Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

            Microsoft never had those concepts on even a “that would be nice” list

        2. DoubleBass

          Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

          "Maemo/Meego arrived too late and was an half-attempt (the UI, but not only) - it appealed only to Linux die-hard fans who wanted an handheld Linux devices,"

          Not sure about this. I think that is true of the N900 (not Meego), but the N9 was actually a very accomplished phone that could have appealed to many who had no knowledge of the underlying OS. It failed in many areas of course, primarily lack of apps, so it was never going to fly by the time it was finally released. I fondly remember the UI though, it was truly designed for one-handed use, responsive and the screen was beautiful in comparison to the competition at the time.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            "but the N9 was actually a very accomplished phone"

            Just, it was already 2011 and the competitors were the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S II - really, too little, and too late. They needed something better years before, and botched it with the N900. By that time many Nokia buyers had already jumped ship, the brand was tarnished, and the wind was strong in Apple and Samsung sails.

            Probably, only a determined Microsoft could have tried to add another OS (after all, Google conjured an Android ecosystem out of nowhere) - but it would have required a razor sharp focus, and being prepared to fight an uphill battle.

            Instead MS was already in a state where internal battles were more important than company products, it was also around that time they killed "Flight Simulator" and tried to replace it with that utterly failure that was "Flight", because they attempted to use the "freemium" mode for the wrong product, showing they utter lack of understanding of their own products. Should we also talk about the "Kin"?

            Also, having scorched any third party who could look like a competitor years before, really didn't help MS to give momentum to Windows Phone applications and dev tools (while Google could take advantage of existing Java libraries and tools, albeit it could end to be costly)

        3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

          @LDS - Hard challenges scare many who have no guts. Betting the future of the company on a product is nerve racking but if you pull it off the company often becomes wildly successful. Apple did it and many forget Boeing several times bet the farm on one product whose failure could take the company down. There are others. But to do it takes a leader who understands the risks and is willing to really lead get the troops motivated. Ballmer should an understanding that risks must be taken but often botched the execution. Nadella does not seem to be a risk taker and seems to be more a market follower. As Jobs observed about Apple (and all companies) whatever your core product is today you need to be willing to cannibalize it today for another product if you want to stay around or someone else will cannibalize your core product for you tomorrow.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

            Apple is hardly a risk taker or market leader either, but in the Jobs era they knew how to reduce their product portfolio to the minimum necessary (computers: desktop, laptop, pro desktop, pro laptop, phone: one version), use newish understood technology only after the rest had gone through the development pains to make it understood, knew what to include and what to leave for later, and used software to appeal the pros and design to appeal to the masses.

            Cook has done too much cannibalising and not enough of what made Apple good under Jobs.


          Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

          Except that Nokia did not fail because every one wanted handheld devices that also make phone calls.

          Hand held devices are awful. Nobody likes on screen keyboards. No one needs a handheld when they have a full sized computer at work and at home. The only time you don't have a full sized is in the car, and it is or should be illegal to use a hand held then. Nokia would have done fine if MS had not made the purchase. There is a huge market for phones that are not smart, expensive, or high monthly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

            Nokia would have done fine if MS had not made the purchase.

            No it wouldn't.

            It's beyond argument that Nokia was falling behind and would continue to do so unless they did something. A decision had to be made.

            The fact that what they decided to do was the very worst thing they could have thought of is neither here nor there.

            1. strum Silver badge

              Re: Nokia was a phone company that couldn't make the transition

              >The fact that what they decided to do was the very worst thing they could have thought of is neither here nor there.

              Come now. Anything but "the very worst thing they could have thought of" has got to be better, surely?

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Only 5 years??

      Shouldn't the tale stretch back longer

      The article does make this very point: Nokia's reorganisation when it was world leader effectively prevented it from developing really marketable products. There were lots of experiments but no commitment to a single line.

      The competing department theory was very much in vogue at the time, based to some degree I believe on the Goldman Sachs corporate culture.

      It would be nice to see someone revive the good bits of the Symbian stuff at some point.

      1. Neal McQ

        Re: Only 5 years??

        The book recommended at the end of the article does exactly that. It hightlights everything Nokia (and Symbian) did right for years, alongside highlighting all their issues. It's an excellent book.

    3. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Not really a failure

      He did exactly what he was put into Nokia for, lowering the company value so it would be easier to buy.

      Maybe Microsoft wanted to have a company to build their Windows phones, maybe they were afraid of Meego, which received virtually no ad money or device support and yet outsold Windows phones by far.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Conspiracy theory?

    We know the following:

    1. The burning platform memo... no sane CEO who's in it for the long term kneecaps their current platform.

    2. The N9 launch to restricted markets... no sane CEO who's in it for the long term kills their new platform.

    3. In his breathless rush to dump existing and new OSes and switch to Windows Phone, he soured operator relations by insisting on Skype being bundled too.

    4. As his CV shows, Elop's one and only idea before Nokia was engineering buyouts. Thus it happened with Nokia.

    So, saying he was all in a fluster to get on board the Windows Phone train whatever the cost and get bought by MS is hardly a conspiracy theory. It's all on the record.

    Maybe Nokia had dysfunctional internal bureaucracy, but it's no worse that Microsoft's stack ranking or any large corp I've worked in. In spite of that bureaucracy (which they themselves recognised hindered them and were trying to change) they still got good phones out like the N8, N9, E7, and N808.

    Yet when they bet everything on Windows Phone, which neither end users nor operators like, they stopped being successful. What should we blame, the bureaucracy or Elop? If you're still not sure, look at his CV after Nokia.

    1. tmTM

      Re: Conspiracy theory?

      If I remember rightly the N8 came out a little while after the memo hit the news and what surprised most people is that it was a really decent phone, this raised the obvious question as why so thoroughly burn the platform when it was still producing quality products.

      Granted it's time was up, but a quiet, managed wind-down would have worked much better.

      As it was all the bad press hurt sales of the remaining Symbian phones while the WP7 devices were still hung up in development.

      1. keithzg

        And Nokia *had* a smooth exist strategy planned out for Symbian

        By the time the N8 came out, Nokia's dev tools supported easily writing applications that would work fine on Symbian devices like the N8 (and Symbian was still, at the time, the single most widely installed smartphone OS in the world) *and* on the new Harmattan Linux-based platform of the N9. It could, in fact, have been one of the smoothest ecosystem OS switchovers in computer history, had they kept to the plan.

        And frankly, as someone who worked in phone retail at the time as a slacker job, I'm not sure Windows Phone even actually ever got as good of an app catalogue as the Qt-based apps for Maemo and Symbian; I had a Nokia N9 and easily had better apps available to me than the crappy catalogue available on the Windows Phones I was selling (frankly, Windows Phone was best considered just a nice touchscreen interface for a feature phone). Which is particularly shocking considering how Nokia entirely pulled the rug out from app developers and had essentially announced there was no future.

        And that's not even to get into how Nokia had more Linux-based products in the pipeline that were then canceled to make way for Windows Phone . . . only, Windows Phone only supported an extremely limited set of SoCs and had to be developed for anew, abandoning the SoCs Nokia had been working with prior, and so Nokia found itself with giant gaps in its device roadmap.

        Now, it's entirely possible that Nokia's smooth changeover strategy, where developers could easily target both their legacy platform and upcoming platform, may not have worked. And the N9 (which was wonderfully received at the time, and IMHO still feels a bit futuristic in construction and interface today; certainly the swipe-based navigation is almost infinitely better than Android's lacklustre new gesture-based navigation) may not have seen widespread adoption or the followup budget and mid-range devices may not have found traction either. But, it would have been far less of an uphill battle than Windows Phone was.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: And Nokia *had* a smooth exist strategy planned out for Symbian

          I'm a daily user of Meego's spiritual descendant Sailfish OS and I absolutely love it. I have my wallet ready for Sailfish 3.0 as soon as it appears and would never see iOS or Android again if I had my way.

          But I just know that reviewers are going to hate and try to kill SF3 because it's different than they are used to and they won't give themselves time to adapt or even allow for it in their judgement.

          For Nokia HMD to adopt Sailfish with a couple of high end phones would be the Phoenix with the middle finger raised at Microsoft.

          Elop apologists like this article are correct when they point out that Nokia were failing before him, but they should acknowledge his strategy for recovery was fucking shite, unless the the plan was to waste a $billion kill Nokia as a name in the phone business forever, and even that may fail.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: And Nokia *had* a smooth exist strategy planned out for Symbian

            For Nokia HMD to adopt Sailfish with a couple of high end phones would be the Phoenix with the middle finger raised at Microsoft.

            They seem to be unable to do that due to Google's T&Cs. Hopefully the EU will sort that out.

    2. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Conspiracy theory?

      And look what MS did to Windows 8 to try and make phones and computers look the same.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is just ghoulish rubber-necking.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Cruel

      New to the internet are we?

    2. Ian K

      Re: Cruel

      You say that like it's a bad thing.

  4. Starace

    I blame Nadella

    After all the useless gimp has managed to ruin more than just Nokia.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: I blame Nadella

      I suspect MS shareholders would generally disagree. He's made some poor decisions but the shift towards services seems to be paying off for them.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "I suspect MS shareholders would generally disagree."

        Sure, Azure is going well - now.

        But it's also turning MS in a simple renter of software often developed elsewhere. For a while they could capitalize on companies moving in-house software built on MS software to the cloud, but as they move to non-MS software as well because Nadella promotes it for fear of investing in its own products, one day shareholders could find MS has no competitive advantage and it's just another "cloud company" as many others (plus the stigma of being MS in many millennials mind). And they're still behind Amazon - which diversified its operations much more.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: "I suspect MS shareholders would generally disagree."

          A telling point about Amazon is Bezos' maniacal focus on the customer. He tries to understand his customers and have products for them. Also, being a retailer originally Amazon is used to operating in a low margin business that relies extensively on repeat customers to stay around. This is very different from the relatively high margins found with the cloud or software. One key difference is physical products, say cat litter, has a relatively high percentage of fixed costs for each bag sold that does not really change much. With software, once a certain number of units are sold or rented the costs to add more customers are much lower and the affect on the profit margin much more for unit added.

      2. midcapwarrior

        Re: I blame Nadella

        Nadella had a choice to continue a failed phone strategy which at best would require $$$$$'s in continued investment with $'s in marginal return. Even in 2015 it was clear that all of the profits were going to the top two vendors with scraps left for everyone else.

        Turned focus to all things cloud including cannibalizing office on shrink wrap sales for cloud subscriptions.

        Easy call now but a tough sell at the time with the Windows/Office hegemony entrenched.

        He made the tough call to walk away from a multi billion dollar mistake.

        Should he have done a better job of messaging, absolutely but in the end he made the right call.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "but in the end he made the right call."

          Are you sure? Controlling the endpoints may dictate what happens in the cloud. For now MS is lucky Linux keeps on shooting into its feet happily when it comes to desktop machines and their applications leaving no options but Windows and macOS for some applications (with the limit of a single hardware vendor now more interested in iPhones) - but that's no longer the large majority of end points.

          Sure, conquering market share with Windows Phone would have required vision and true leadership, not the average corporate ladder climber. Nokia had a lot of great expertise in phone hardware, to build upon, and recognizable brand.

          In some ways, MS has to hope antitrust will block Google, and maybe Apple (although its overall market share is far lower in many markets, and that may keep it safe) to leverage their dominant position to put MS in a corner - just like MS tried with competitors in the past.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: I blame Nadella

          but in the end he made the right call.

          Depends if you define the right call as unveiling a Windows 10 everywhere strategy that only works if you define everywhere to be just the desktop.

          There is Azure, but downtime is too high. However the CxOs who send money to Microsoft aren't that demanding, they put up with Windows, Office, and Exchange before and now they put up with Azure now.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I blame Nadella

        Perhaps so, but I don't give two shits about what Microsoft shareholders think. I only care about what Microsoft does, and from my point of view, Microsoft excels at ruining things.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I blame Nadella

      This one wasn't Nadella's fault. Ballmer started the mess. Nadella was stuck with the job of wiping it up, while at the same time being obliged to spew the usual corporate bollocks about what a wonderful product he thought it all was.

      I agree with the 'useless gimp' bit in general though.

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Phone? What's that?

    iPhone, Android ... none of these things are telephones anymore, they are just small personal computers that occasionally fool you into answering junk phone calls - these days we text more than talk and browse the Internet way more than text. I think that phones, at least for voice communications, are on the way out - 95% of the calls I get on my cell phone and landline are junk - voice calls are heading to the dustbin of history.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "95% of the calls I get on my cell phone and landline are junk"

      You need more friends, and you should be more careful about giving your phone number to every marketing operation around...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "95% of the calls I get on my cell phone and landline are junk"

        Joke or not, it's rather unfair as the OP does have some valid points. Compared with a few years ago, more people do primarily keep up with their friends via social media - which is largely text (and picture) based rather than voice. If there's any movement here it's of people moving away from facebook/twitter and more towards private messaging (Whatsapp, Telegram) - but it's still based on text/picture messages, not voice.

        Junk calls are getting more and more prevalent - Ofcom still haven't got the regulatory stuff buttoned down, and I wouldn't bet on them doing so soon, either. You can't avoid them by keeping your number private - if it isn't leaked by one of your friends handing their contacts list over you'll get hit by a robocaller just scanning the mobile number address space looking for a random hit.

        I don't think it's sensible to predict the demise of voice-based comms, but they're certainly less important today than they ever used to be. My prediction is their use will continue to slide for a few more years and then remain on a stubborn plateau and never go away. Some stuff is just done better over a voice call, and probably always will be.

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: "95% of the calls I get on my cell phone and landline are junk"

          Seconded. Voice may not go anywhere in the immediate future but I see it used much less too - at least in a personal context; calling people left and right like there's no tomorrow for hours on end still seems to be a thing whenever business is involved, but a lot less when it isn't.

          For most of the twentieth century, making a call was the only way to contact anyone unless you were willing to wait for a telegram / letter or had the chance to meet in person. As revolutionary as phones were at the time, SMS / e-mail / IM / social media ended up offering alternatives that greatly reduced the need to place a call anywhere a real-time two-way dialogue was not necessary - which, frankly, is most cases. Various notifications don't need an actual call - today you just get them in your mail. If you need to get hold of someone _right now_ then yeah, you're going to attempt to call them - but you're also going to disturb and distract them from whatever they may have been doing. Anything moderately urgent but only on a "some time today or tomorrow" scale is much better served by a typed message that doesn't have that disadvantage - you can always fall back to a call if time runs out without a reply*.

          And don't you ever wonder how come that although video calls became technically possible over half a century ago - and everyone thought they were going to be the future - they never really became popular, most people preferring to shun them even today? It's not much of a riddle, frankly - it's pretty obvious that most of the time the convenience of being able to see the other party during such a call is far, far outweighed by the inconvenience of needing to be prepared to be seen by the other party. And calls have the same drawback compared to typed messages - you need to put on a socially acceptable mood and voice and you don't get to carefully compose and edit your messages should you find it difficult to choose the right words in a live conversation.

          * this does not cover those who obsessively reply to any message they receive immediately, often flinging a few words back and forth at exhausting lengths, regardless of what potentially much more important functions they drop right around them to do so. I suspect their reasons not to just make a call instead** are pointed out in the next paragraph.

          ** I mean beyond the basic failure to realise they are NOT literally "on call" 24/7 and a number of "do not disturb" aka "fuck you I'm not going to pick up even if I forgot to set the damn thing on mute" situations very much do exist in the real world - sometimes I wonder what on earth can they possibly think the little red handset icon is for on their smartphones, if they believe every call absolutely HAS to be answered immediately, no matter what, no exceptions...

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "Junk calls are getting more and more prevalent"

          I don't get any junk call nor messages. Here privacy laws dates back to 1996, and you need my explicit permit to make commercial calls to my number - something I have been very careful not to give anybody since I had a mobile phone. Thereby my number is not in any list call centers are using, and they would breaking the law attempting random numbers.

          I understand in other countries with less strong requirements you may be less lucky.

          As you say, some stuff are better done over voice call - and often the reason people got used to other media is the cost of voice calls - albeit now often those too are included in a flat rate.

          But if yours 95% calls are junk - unless it's an exaggeration - there's something wrong <G>

    2. AK565

      Re: Phone? What's that?

      Close. For me the line is, "99% of calls from numbers not already on my contact list are junk" ... This is the reason for the spontaneous orgasm I had when I discovered Blackberry gave the option to allow only calls from my contacts.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Phone? What's that?

        Whoa there....

        I could have said the same ""99% of calls from numbers not already on my contact list ...are junk" twenty+ years ago. Anyone who ever received a call from out of the blue from an unknown number was getting junk. Except once upon a time it was wrong numbers (they used to be very common) now it's PPI/Scammers

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The goal is to understand society, personality and, most importantly, how these two are connected,"

    ... from the accompanying diagram then looks like Nokia were attempting to channel the "conjoined triangles of success" - Jack Barker would have been proud!

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. James 51 Silver badge

    Still have my N900. Had to pull it out of retirement for a few days while I was waiting for a new phone. In some ways it is still miles ahead of every other phone I've used (with the possible exception of my Gemini). I know it serves a niche but it did it so well.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      I still have my N810, and the apps I wrote live on in my Nexus 6P.

      Maemo/Meego/Meego was half-assed. It was stole a lot from Debian, but without the benefits of things like apt. To upgrade to the latest, you wiped the device and installed new firmware. The API was kind of a confused nightmare inherited from a bunch of sources.

      Starting to develop in Android Eclair was such a breath of fresh air and it was obvious Android was "it"

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        On the other hand, the N9 was praised when it was launched.

        Shame they dropped it for Windows Phone when they finally got it right.

        1. James 51 Silver badge

          I was waiting for the N950 but that never made it to the shops.

          1. keithzg

            Yeah Nokia's Linux strategy seemed pretty doomed once Nokia outright decided not to even actually try and sell them.

            SailfishOS is pretty great on my Gemini, so in some senses it does live on, though I would have preferred a more N900-style thumb keyboard like the N950 had (ie. you can't necessarily type normally, but a full range of keys is included).

            1. James 51 Silver badge

              I'm waiting for Sailfish 3.0 before sticking it on.


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