back to article Was Nokia's Elop history's worst CEO?

Stephen Elop's decision to bet the farm on Windows Phone makes him the world's worst CEO, according to a new book published this week. Operation Elop by Pekka Nykänen and Merina Salminen interviews former Nokia staff and arrives at its judgement based on the decline in Nokia's market value from 2010 to 2013: from €29.5bn to € …

  1. James 47

    Nope

    He walked away with millions and a divorce. That's a typical CEO.

    Seriously though, Nokia had crippled its ability to deliver long before Elop arrived. It's only when serious competitors came on the scene did Nokia realise the dire situation they were in.

    His memo was a complete fucking disaster, but the issues described in it were not his doing.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Stop

      No-one gets away scott free

      Nokia's pre-Elop mismanagement was to blame for a lot of their problems, but Elop did everything he could to hasten the demise.

      The burning platforms memo was the biggest act of corporate suicide since Gerald Ratner described his own jewellery as a bit shit.

      In a lot of cases there are a faceless group of people that never get the blame and deserve a share of it - that's the boards of these companies. Nokia's board should be had up on charges for overseeing such a disaster for shareholders and employing Elop in the first place.

      1. Johan Bastiaansen

        Re: No-one gets away scott free

        Yes, well that's not how it works. These people only take credit for success. That's the key to being successful.

      2. Levente Szileszky

        Re: No-one gets away scott free

        "The burning platforms memo was the biggest act of corporate suicide since Gerald Ratner described his own jewellery as a bit shit."

        Yes, he should've been fired right there, on that moment, for melting down 50% of Nokia on the market in ONE F'N DAY. But then again, the board was full of clueless idiots who went along all the way with this incredible hostile corporate value destruction.

        1. auburnman

          Re: No-one gets away scott free

          "Yes, he should've been fired right there, on that moment, for melting down 50% of Nokia on the market in ONE F'N DAY. "

          While I agree with your assessment, who on the board would realistically have pulled that trigger? Firing a brand new CEO with clearly no planned replacement strategy would have only doubled down on the share nosedive, and then the firer has then just committed the same offence as the firee.

          Ironically picking a direction and sticking with it come hell or high water was probably at one time the best strategy for Nokia, unfortunately that time was months ago and definitely long before they were brought low enough to have to accept the Devil's coin from MS. That just left them with outsiders effectively setting policy for them.

          1. Daniel B.

            Re: No-one gets away scott free

            While I agree with your assessment, who on the board would realistically have pulled that trigger? Firing a brand new CEO with clearly no planned replacement strategy would have only doubled down on the share nosedive, and then the firer has then just committed the same offence as the firee.

            I'll say a name here, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

            Leo Apotheker.

            While HP might not be swimming in the McDuck Moneybin's worth of $$$, the decision to axe Leo after his stupid gaffé is probably the reason we still have an HP vs. having it go down the acquisition route which befell good old companies like DEC, Tandem, or Sun Microsystems. See the difference:

            - Elop sends the Burning Platforms memo and kills pretty much Nokia's value overnight. Board keeps him. Nokia Mobile is no more, now Borged by Microsoft and the way things are going, that's where it will die.

            - Leo sends the Burning PCs memo, causing an instant 25% drop in HP shares. The board axes him about 1 month after this stupid, stupid move and backtracks on it. HP is still alive.

    2. BillG Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Nope

      Operation Elop debunks the weird conspiracy theory that Elop had been brought in to sell the company back to Microsoft cheaply

      Actually, I've seen this happen. A CEO is brought in by the board with the (undocumented) understanding that he will make questionable decisions that lead to selling the company to a specific corporation.

      Unless you are specifically told what is going on, this is completely impossible to prove as absolutely nothing is documented to prove this. What does happen is that the CEO and certain other complicit managers walk away with millions six months or more after the acquisition, usually covered under money that is kept in escrow for undisclosed purposes.

      On the surface it all looks very legal because you can't prosecute intent.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Nope

        > "Actually, I've seen this happen."

        Me too. And it was not a tiny company, it had 1700 employees.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Backtracking on Elop's hiring

          A new CEO doesn't take a major action like canning the future development of an at the time market leading smartphone OS without the board knowing about it and approving (at least tacitly)

          How could they fire a CEO for taking a course of action they approved just because the market response to it was pretty negative? That would be admitting they screwed up, and the shareholders would be demanding their replacement. Of course, the shareholders should have done so anyway!

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Um, no...

    That'd be why the graphs of whatever you care to mention kept going up till the burning platform memo, when devs abandoned Nokia followed closely by customers. That's why he went with WP although neither devs nor customers followed him. That's why the N9 got rave reviews but was sold as little as possible and in hardly any of the markets which mattered. That's why he got a clause paying him millions if he sold the handset division. And that's why he made Nokia X just to force MS' hand after the first attempt to sell Nokia to MS failed.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Um, no...

      You're ignoring how mobile operators purchased phones. The orders were placed at least six months ahead of introduction, so reported sales are more to do with buyer sentiment six months previously, rather than right now (Nokia sold 99% of its product to mobile phone operators, not to users).

      The drop in sales is down to the botched N8 introduction, not the Windows memo. I believe that the cause of the memo, and the failure of the N9 to secure distribution goes back a year to when Nokia repeatedly delayed N8, then released woefully un-finihsed software on what should have been a blockbuster device. (Remember that its originally-planned launch date predated the iPhone 4)

      N8 burned a lot of operators: it was not just horribly late, but when it did arrive it had very high dissatisfaction rates and returns rates from customers. I had one, and I remember it being awful until the first ("Anna") software arrived eight months after I bought it. It only reached a par with Android/iOS with the "Belle" release in February 2012; a sixteen months after I bought the phone. (But realising that lots of users don't ever update their phone firmware, and lots of users change their phone more often than I do, you can see how badly this product damaged Nokia).

      From a developer point of view, the story was equally confused: Qt wasn't fully capable on these phones until later in 2011, but realistically, it was only the Belle release in 2012 with Qt 4.8 that gave developers a painless way to write modern applications, but by then sales were already falling. N8 and 808 PureView made up 70% of my app sales (utilities, not photo related), but my sales dried up sharply in 2013 as those phones came up to contract renewal time, and there was no high-end Symbian device to take their place.

      Had N8 been a success, operators would have leapt on N9, as it's a beautiful device, and the first phone to be "better than an iPhone" in terms of aesthetics (the gloss-white version in particular is a thing of beauty). But N8 was a disaster, and the operators were not willing to give Nokia another chance to sell them a pup (it didn't matter than N9 wasn't a pup in the end). Even then, there was a deeper problem to deal with: N9 was a stop-gap, because the "MeeGo" software was nothing like as ready as they let on - in the end N9 was Nokia's UI ported back to Nokia's old Maemo platform from the N900. Had N9 worked out, I suspect Nokia would have still told Intel/LinuxFoundation to get stuffed, and instead put their R&D money into bringing Maemo forward (probably eventually building it on AOSP's kernel)

      But all that's "might have beens". The truth was that with no appreciable sales for N9 to pay for its completion (a couple of Australian and Central European operators took it up, but nothing like what it needed for success), Nokia needed something, fast, but their internal R&D could only deliver very, very slowly.

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Re: Um, no...

        That's interesting information about the N8, but you forgot to mention that it followed the N97 as Nokia flagship. That made the N8 seem like a work of genius in comparison. It can truly be considered Nokia's Stalingrad smartphone.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um, no...Stalingrad smartphon

          That metaphor needs a little clarification. Built in the ruins of a tractor factory? Supplied from over a river under German fire? The point at which everything started to go downhill? Or just capable of making phone calls under shellfire.

          1. Hans 1 Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Um, no...Stalingrad smartphon

            >Supplied from over a river under German fire?

            That was Leningrad, sorry.

            1. Felix Krull
              Headmaster

              Re: Um, no...Stalingrad smartphon

              That was Leningrad, sorry.

              No, it was Stalingrad. Leningrad was supplied over a lake under German fire.

          2. fch

            Re: Um, no...Stalingrad smartphon

            Well, more like, sticking to their way of making phones - development teams "competing" with each other for ever more lofty and remote goals, using SymbianOS versions obsolete by the time Nokia set the project up, then burdening it with irrational half-way-wrencharound managerial politicing ...

            ... and they held on, after the enemies closed in, surrounded them, attacked from all sides, till the last bullet, the last drop of blood, the final breath ...

            [ that said, Godwin's law ... let them and the thread rest in piece ]

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Um, no...

        Qt 4.8 couldn't have fixed anything, Elop had burned Nokia's platforms by that time.

        If anyone was ever in doubt after the burning platforms memo, all they needed to do is look at the his CV and they'd have known what was going to happen. And sure enough, it did. It's not a conspiracy theory, it's putting two and two together.

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Um, no...

        @Krisitan Walsh, thanks for the detail on the way you experienced things.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Um, no...

      No, smartphone market share had fallen from over 60 per cent to 35 per cent by the time Elop was appointed. Nokia's revenue had fallen for three consecutive years. This is why the board got a new CEO.

      Conspiracy theorists have it all figured out, though.

      1. Anonymous Bullard

        Re: Um, no...

        Conspiracy theorists have it all figured out, though.

        Devil's advocate hat on...

        It could be said that MS saw Nokia was failing, so decided to keep it that way.

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Um, no...

        @ Andrew Orlowski

        I suppose you have not read the book, nor have I, but as far as I know the authors do write that there are no evidence of Elop being a mole. The burning platform was a silly thing though. Nokias problems started before Elop, that is why he got the job. Personally I think he overestimated Microsoft also as he left his family in Canada I think he never intended to stay on for any lengh of time at Nokia. I find it very difficult to consider him a good choice for Nokia and I would blame the board for a stupid decision, also McKinsey & Company was an odd choice by the board as it is very close to Microsoft. Also they claim that Nokia got a better offer from Google.

        The header at Tietoviikko.com is this “Stephen Elop ei ollut myyrä vaan tunari” which translates to “Stephen Elop was not a mole , but a screw-up”.

        http://www.tivi.fi/uutisia/stephen+elop+ei+ollut+myyra+vaan+tunari/a1017750

        But as they say there is always several reasons for a catastrophe.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Um, no...

        Of course Nokia's smartphone market share had fallen, the smartphone market itself had grown.

        The figures (60% to 35%) differ from Tomi Ahonen's. You might say he's not impartial but he makes a very convincing argument.

        1. Terry Barnes

          Re: Um, no...

          "Of course Nokia's smartphone market share had fallen, the smartphone market itself had grown."

          Erm, in a healthy business with products that people want, they'd have ridden that growth and maintained market share. They didn't.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Um, no...

            "Erm, in a healthy business with products that people want, they'd have ridden that growth and maintained market share. They didn't."

            ... or perhaps not? This is precisely Apple's situation, as we are endlessly advised here on the Register. It's harder than you think to manage to ride the market growth and maintain the same market share - it's pretty much impossible I think.

      4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Um, no...

        It's a bit of crap consipiracy. I want to buy this shiny company. You go in and bugger it up for me, then they'll sell me it cheap. By which point it'll be a knackered rubbishy company of course...

        There's another huge argument against the conspiracy theory. And it's the clincher, so far as I'm concerned.

        In order for it to be a conspiracy for MS to eventually eat Nokia, you have to assume that Steve Ballmer is competent, fiendishly clever, and a master or manipulation. You at the back, stop laughing!

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Um, no...

          Exactly MS has paid a fortune and only got a licence for IP, a brand they will stop using, staff that they have laid off and factories that are closing.

          At the end of the MS is losing a fortune, getting really nothing and Nokia got a fortune for a Zombie division.

          Any conspiracy must be Nokia's not MS's

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Um, no...

            Any conspiracy must be Nokia's not MS's

            You can be certain that some shareholders profited very handsomely from the deal, which was in cash. Microsoft was able to use some of the tons of non-US cash for the deal that would have otherwise been subject to tax if it had been repatriated and paid to shareholders as dividends. An even more egregious example of an elaborate tax avoidance scheme was the Skype purchase where Microsoft bid against itself to spunk $ 8 bn on a loss-making business with little or no IP. At least with Nokia it got some tangible assets that it could dispose of.

            In these deals it's almost always customers and employees who lose out.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Um, no...

          Assuming the conspiracy is for that aim.

          What if the aim is to remove a few smartphone operating systems that are not subject to the patriot act?

          Alternatively handing the chunk of market to Samsung who paid patent royalties on Android to Microsoft, was hardly a bad thing for Microsoft.

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: Um, no...

            Again, you're assuming competence from "I didn't know how to do it," Ballmer, plus assuming the US spooks are competent conspirators.

            (Hint: Both parties are only adept at CYA.)

          2. asdf Silver badge

            Re: Um, no...

            >remove a few smartphone operating systems that are not subject to the patriot act?

            You do know Intel was fairly involved with Meego right? Based on my experience on how they manage complex software projects that is some of the reason it and its derivatives haven't exactly set the world on fire.

      5. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: Um, no...

        @Andrew Orlowski

        Who in their right mind burns the current platform without having the "next" platform ready? I mean on devices ready to be shipped ? Nokia and RimBB CEO's, apparently ... I do think Elop is too stupid to have come up with a conspiracy plot, though, and am really disappointed MS did not choose him as CEO.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And that's why he made Nokia X just to force MS' hand after the first attempt to sell Nokia to MS failed

    If it wasn't for the pending MS buy-out, I would have looked into Nokia X.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    The truth is somewhere between the two. Nokia had got their phone business into a complete mess, and could not respond to the newer format from iOS and Android quickly enough. The outsourced Symbian development and maintenance to Accenture who did accelerate the improvement, but nobody had the stomach for a rehash to EKA3. Meanwhile the N9 Linux based phones showed some promise. But Nokia were the wrong side of the drag curve, and a competent CEO was required to minimise damage whilst the downward momentum was slowed. Unfortunately they got Elop who accelerated the downward momentum.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      The outsourcing to Accenture happened after Elop arrived.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        "Outsourced to Accenture after Elop arrived"

        No s hit Sherlock.

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Exactly, now, can somebody please tell me what Accenture is ? Who owns it, who founded it .... ahhh, right!

  5. Hi Wreck

    Hardly

    One only has to look at Nortel as a start. Then there's DEC, Compaq, MCI etc. etc. etc.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Hardly

      Wang too

      Gateway?

      Mitel

      RCA

      Westinghouse

      Hallicrafters

      Zenith Radio

      Thorn

      GEC

      Rank-Bush-Murphy

      McMichael

      EMI/Columbia Graphaphone/HMV/Marconiphone Radios

      Grundig

      Telefunken

      Akkord

      Ever Ready (UK)

      etc ..

  6. werdsmith Silver badge

    I believe that Nokia can get back into the phone business in 2016, so I expect that Sailfish OS will get a bit of a boost soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I believe that Nokia can get back into the phone business in 2016"

      They may be allowed to by the end of a non-compete clause, but those clauses are standard fodder that lawyers always insert in commercial agreements.

      If Nokia wanted to make phones they wouldn't have sold the phone business. As it is, their board recognised that only two companies were making money out of hardware (and arguably the Company That Shall Not Be Named makes the money on software, and just happens to insource hardware design). If margins are so tight that most other entirely competent hardware makers are losing money, finding somebody to take your own ailing phone business off your hands (and then them paying you for it) is a master stroke of Finnish and or Canadian genius. Although they were admittedly helped by Microsoft's strategic drift, and the fact that MS had a huge cash pile burning a hole in their trousers.

      In this view of the world, the words "Trojan horse" do apply, but instead of Elop himself being that horse, in fact the Nokia phones business that was the Trojan horse and Elop's just hauled it into the Redmond fort, where it will turn out to be a big bag of trouble.

      1. Vic

        If Nokia wanted to make phones they wouldn't have sold the phone business

        AIUI, "Jolla" means "lifeboat"...

        Vic.

  7. kmac499

    Bet Who's Farm

    I still wonder why such SBT (Stellar Business Talent) as people like Elop\Diamond\Whitman et al undoubtedly are, based on their pay rates. How come they are always working for someone else as an employee? Surely they could make much more money leveraging their skills and starting their own companies.

    If I go into a bank and ask for a sizeable loan they want the keys to my house, Do these SBTs lodge their house keys as surety that they will do a good job whilst they gamble with other peoples farms

    Or is that their primary skill is to negotiate a good package for themselves and in fact SBT is short for Senior Bullshit Thrower..

    "It is a truth universally acknowldeged that a CEO with a vision is the most dangerous employee in the company" 'pologies to J Austen

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Bet Who's Farm

      C level "talent" is hired by the board in order to run the company. The board are given power to do this by the shareholders, who do in fact own the company - it's their farm.

      So when Elop comes in and "bets the farm", you are complaining that it is not his farm to bet, how dare he. He is the chosen instrument of the owners, who have chosen to bet their farm via a proxy. If he screws it up, the people who chose him lose their money.

      1. kmac499

        Re: Bet Who's Farm

        I agree wth your description of the legitimacy of the way CEO's etc are appointed. Plus of course board members need to be regularly re-elected ( even if only by a show of hands).

        My point is that the SBT (as I called them) are regularly feted as examples of excellence. But they do not run the same risks as the Jane & John Doe running the sandwich shop outside their corporate headquarters. Where Jane and John may well have remortgaged their homes and are running the risk that no matter how hard they work if it all goes titsup they could be on the street.

        In a lot of cases the only downside the SBT seem to run is they may suddenly have more time to to count last years bonus..and not be on the cover of Business Week this year.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Bet Who's Farm

          Yes, unsurprisingly, people who both own and run their own business have more to lose than someone who simply runs someone else's business.

          If Jane and John decide not to actually run their sandwich shop, and ask Bob to do it instead, paying him a wage and live off the profits he produces, then Bob is risking nothing and only Jane and John are risking their business. That's fine though because it is Jane and John's business how they run their business.

  8. nijam

    But... would anything different have happened if Elop were an MS mole, as some people assumed from the outset? Of course not. At best his actions failed to help Nokia, at worst they created new problems ("burning platform-gate" being the most famous).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too slow

    With the perfect clarity of hindsight, the writing was on the wall for Nokia when it gave its reaction to Apple's announcement of the iphone; what amounted to the equivalent of a corporate snort of derision suggesting they had not the slightest clue of what the future held, nor - perhaps more importantly - the speed at which things would pan out. They just didn't get that the phone was no longer going to be the main focus of the device.

    I also find their decision to go with windows phone hard to understand. Microsoft had been tinkering with handheld devices for a long time, back into the 90s I think with Compaq devices, and to my mind had just never really understood that the format had its own strengths and weaknesses and was not merely a small desktop. The early examples of Windows phone really ought to have given them pause for thought, later problems notwithstanding.

    It was a great shame to see such an ignominious end for Nokia; in their day they made great phones that were a pleasure to use, and they 'got' usability when most others in the industry didn't. You can understand the shell shock for some, but they certainly weren't the first to fail to read the crystal ball correctly.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Too slow

      From some perspective, Microsoft understood better what a smartphone is than Apple and Google. For example the "candy icons collection" iOS and Android use as home screens are utterly useless and that design dates back to the Palm devices of many years ago.

      At least MS understood the home screen needs to convey useful informations (since WinCE) to the user - and give fust access to them, and just not be a Fisher Price interface with a lot of colorful candies to collect for the joy of the average fanboy luser - which of course is happy to own a phone and show it to others, not to use it really.

      Just, MS wasn't able to design a true usable UI for its devices until WP8, trying to backport too much the Windows desktop design (just to go the other way round with W8...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too slow

        I would argue that the ultimate decider of what company understands the market best - market share/Sales - says you are wrong.

        I don't know WP 8 total sales but would not be surprised if Apple sold more on launch weekend than MS total sales.

      2. Daniel B.

        Re: Too slow

        From some perspective, Microsoft understood better what a smartphone is than Apple and Google.

        I don't think so. In fact, they still don't understand it. MS idea is "Windows everywhere" and that's why they fail everywhere else.

        ...and just not be a Fisher Price interface with a lot of colorful candies to collect for the joy of the average fanboy luser

        You are right on Fisher Price interfaces being bad. But MS did exactly that with WP7, and then hobbled their own desktop OS with it in Windows 8!

        If anyone had a good idea on how to do a real smartphone UI, it was Symbian-era Nokia. In fact, most of the pre-iPhone smartphone UIs were pretty much good on giving useful information to their users.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Too slow

      Nokia went off the rails LONG before iPhone, probably about 2002. It was just iPhone's consumer friendly Operator data model and slick GUI exposed the rot. Before then only business users could afford data on smart phones.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Too slow

        Nokia went off the rails LONG before iPhone, probably about 2002.

        Definitely agree with that, apart from the Communicator Nokia's Symbian phones were shittier in every aspect than Ericsson's. Problems with Symbian and some woeful TI chips encouraged Ericsson to jump ship to Android and then get out of the handset business. With a unified and focussed Symbian and better chips things might well have ended up differently. At least ARM chips came out of the debacle as the standard architecture.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Too slow

          "Nokia went off the rails LONG before iPhone, probably about 2002."

          N95 and N82 were rocking around 2007, about to hit the iPhone wall and get humiliated by a 2G only phone that had a basic multi tasking function, but at that point in 2007 blind to the future they were flying.

      2. Andus McCoatover

        Re: Too slow

        Ironically, it was Nokia who came out with the slogan "Data in <strikeout> packets </strikeout> pockets!"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This "Trojan Horse" theory is popular with with Finns and old Nokia devotees as they place the blame for Nokia's fate outside the company, on outsiders, not on the company its culture and organisation, which they feel are blameless.

    The paradox of coexisting ossification and frantic change was plain to see for anyone, even for a Finn and devotee. Constant reorgs and changing organizational models while the same managers played musical chairs, pursuing personal goals (bonuses) and infighting instead of focusing on the product. Making the right decisions too late, etc.

    While Nokia has had a special place in Finns' hearts it's a good thing to remember its successes and failures have not just been a Finnish thing. As a telecoms company it's always been a global corporation, as much US, UK, Indian or Chinese (I could go on) as it has been Finnish.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unhappy ending

    A terrible ending to a former pioneer of the industry. I'd still give anything for a modern Spec'd n900 running Android...

    When he took over I knew he wouldn't be able to save Nokia and when he bet the farm on Windows mobile that confirmed it, but never in my wildest dreams thought he would destroy the company like he eventually did.

    Burning platforms memo was one of the worst decisions ever in corporate history, but worst CEO is probably slightly unfair. He got stiffed by Microsoft when they abandoned Windows Phone 7 just as they started getting devices out the door, which lost them a lot of people who decided to remain loyal to Nokia until that point. It was always going to be a struggle for him being an American businessman starting out in a totally different business culture at a time when that particular company was at a crossroads

    1. GregC
      Unhappy

      Re: I'd still give anything for a modern Spec'd n900 running Android...

      Same here, and I know of others. Apparently there aren't enough of us to make it worthwhile making such a device

    2. Daniel B.

      N900

      I had high hopes for Nokia after playing with an N900. Not just on the OS, anyone remember the transflective display it had? It was probably the only phone you could read in daylight, and the transflective feature meant more battery life. Maybe we'll see a spiritual successor from Jolla?

  12. Rikkeh

    Asleep at the wheel

    It reads a lot like a company whose board was asleep at the wheel, suddenly woke up, panicked as they saw that they were drifting off one side of the road and oversteered themselves off a cliff on the other side.

    The only thing worse than complacency is massively overreacting when you realise how complacent you've been. The move to Windows was, probably, in the long run, the right one. But burning your platforms all at once and leaping into the unknown (especially when there's even now strong demand for long-battery feature phones in developing countries), then going wobbley and selling when you don't immediately get results was madness.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Asleep at the wheel

      A move to Windows, in the long or short run, is never a right one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Asleep at the wheel

        A move to Windows, in the long or short run, is never a right one.

        The smart ones are moving away from Windows.

    2. Rocco

      Re: Asleep at the wheel

      Corporate hubris killed Nokia.

  13. Herer

    It could have been so different

    they'd done all the expensive R&D with Meego and it was production ready. Heck i've put a new battery in my N9 and it's STILL a great UX, and is my daily handset. But no, Elop was so desperate to please his master Ballmer he canned Meego and everything with it and pushed with the far less ready WP7. Everything Elop did was to benefit MSFT. Nothing he did benefitted Nokia, or Finland.

    Tomi Ahonen's blog covers this in minute detail. Elop is clearly the worst CEO ever. And I'm sure the previous stakeholders in Macromedia, or even Boston Chicken, would agree that Elop was poison for them.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: It could have been so different

      N9 is not MeeGo.

      MeeGo was nothing like "production ready". That's why N9's UX and apps were hastily back-ported onto the existing Maemo platform. Abandoning their own mobile Linux development in favour of Intel and LinuxFoundation's LiMo to form MeeGo is one of the more stupid decisions Nokia made, and it was made before Elop. The other stupid decision was open-sourcing Symbian and the whole Symbian Foundation idea. A complete waste of effort to produce no increase in capability of the resulting OS

      As for Tomi Ahonen, remember that he has an axe to grind. His views are not impartial on the matter of Nokia.

      1. hopkinse

        Re: It could have been so different

        Tomi Ahonen may not be totally impartial but he does tend to back up his arguments/opinions with freely available figures. He is a bit obsessed with Sun Tzu tho :-)

    2. Philip Lewis

      Re: It could have been so different

      I really like my N9 - It could have used a slightly more powerful processor, but other than that I have few complaints.

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: It could have been so different

      "Everything Elop did was to benefit MSFT. Nothing he did benefitted Nokia, or Finland."

      Um, what exactly did he do to benefit MS?

      Get their phone OS showcased on a faltering company's phones?

      Stick them with a mostly useless company?

      The only beneficiary from Elop's actions seemed to be Elop himself.

      1. Daniel B.
        Flame

        Re: It could have been so different

        Um, what exactly did he do to benefit MS?

        MS wanted to Borg a phone manufacturer to raise their WP installed base, as most of their usual OEMs were flocking to Android. Nokia had one of the largest shares in the smartphone market, and somehow MS thought all those Nokia users would keep buying Nokia even if the OS was switched to Windows Phone. Instead, it was "Palm: The Sequel" as everyone just flocked to Android or iOS.

        He did what the mothership ordered him to do, now if that was good for MS is an entirely different matter.

        Flames because of burning platforms, get it?

  14. DrXym Silver badge

    Nokia definitely needed reforming

    Nokia was clearly dysfunctional as could be seen by their confusing and overlapping range of consumer / business phones. It definitely needed a reorg and a brutal appraisal of all the projects they had going on and future direction.

    But what it ended up doing was sheer stupidity. Nokia still had a mostly intact reputation for quality phones that married the hardware to the software to create a coherent experience. It was disastrous to lose control of the software side, particularly by using an unproven and unpopular phone OS. Developers jumped ship as did the customers.

    A far more sensible strategy would have been to port the Symbian APIs to Android and ship phones with that. It could still exude a Nokia look & feel and support the old apps while benefitting from being part of the largest phone ecosystem.

  15. nematoad Silver badge
    Windows

    Home from home

    "Elop inherited a dysfunctional bureaucracy, warring factions, and a product team that took 18 months to develop a mediocre device..."

    He must have felt right at home then having come from Microsoft. The quote above applies just as well to MS as it does to Nokia.

  16. PaulM 1

    Do not write off the low-cost Series 40 featurephone platform

    S40 feature phones do a better job of making voice calls than any smartphone. They also have a standby time of up to 30 days which is useful when you do not have access to a charger (for example when camping). The S40 range is making Microsoft huge profits. Unfortunately a company which is focused on writing incredibly complicated software may not value the S40 range.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do not write off the low-cost Series 40 featurephone platform

      Indeed, and I am surprised the S40 part has not been offloaded for vast sums to a Chinese company. This is what I predicted somewhere in the past, and I think it still likely

    2. ilmari

      Re: Do not write off the low-cost Series 40 featurephone platform

      Part of why Nokia failed, was that they did not realize quickly enough that calls are no longer the primary purpose of phones, and that call quality and battery life arent that important either.

  17. Anonymous Coward 101

    Interesting

    I take a keen interest in the 'why Nokia failed' question. I believe that the burning platforms memo did cause damage, but Nokia's smartphone market share was in a death spiral before the memo. I fear the memo gives certain people a 'stab in the back legend' that they can pretend was the cause of Nokia's decline

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting

      When the memo was released on the company's intranet nobody involved with symbian (which was a large fraction of the company) gave a shit anymore. Most people, who had been there for years, just waited around for the inevitable VR packages. There was a Town Hall meeting held in The Oval where JH was giving a talk about the company's dedicated to Symbian; it was met with open laughter.

  18. Hescominsoon

    Elop isn't the world's worst CEO he was acting on orders

    Everyone seems to have forgotten Elop went from Microsoft to Nokia. His orders were to bring Nokia into the fold. What better way to destroy enough company value than to bet the farm on Windows? This wasn't something done through stupidity or idiocy but a well-crafted plan by Microsoft. It is easy to blame this on incompetence but the record speaks volumes. Look at what Microsoft does to competitors it can..it destroys them..then eats them..where they most likely die. This is just a new way of executing their old plays as they have done for years.

  19. DropBear Silver badge
    FAIL

    Yeah right

    So, just because Nokia was undeniably in trouble before Elop arrived, it follows that in spite of obviously doing everything he could to drive the company in the ground, he absolutely did no such thing? Tell you what, you might need to call in Spock to explain the logic of that one...

    1. oldcoder

      Re: Yeah right

      Nokia was the last remaining WP manufacturer... and was not having any success with it.

      The only way MS could keep ANY market for WP was to buy Nokia.

      1. John 62

        Re: Yeah right

        Nokia was the last manufacturer with serious Windows Phone production volume and variety of handsets, but HTC and Samsung have also been chugging along with Windows Phone

        1. Philip Lewis

          Re: Yeah right

          Have you ever seen a HTC or Samsung windows phone in the wild (not in the store)?

          I haven't, and I travel a lot!

          1. midcapwarrior

            Re: Yeah right

            "Have you ever seen a HTC or Samsung windows phone in the wild (not in the store)?

            I haven't, and I travel a lot!"

            I have one of each.

            Obviously we travel in different circles.

            Thankfully

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Betting wholesale on Microsoft isn't an individual decision, even at CEO level.

    As others have said above, the board are highly culpable not just for hiring Elop but for a collective failure of decision making.

    Their track record pre-Elop was a disaster too though. It's easy to forget that for a while it felt like almost every phone was a Nokia. They were the 1000lb gorilla and their decline in such a short time was astounding. Having to bring in someone to gamble on Hail Mary bets from a position of weakness was a failure that can't be pinned on Elop, however badly he played a weak hand.

  21. Johan Bastiaansen

    Shoes

    "Elop concluded Nokia's own software factory was beyond repair, and by choosing Window Phone, effectively outsourced the lot to Microsoft."

    So he threw out his only shoes because someone somewhere saw better looking shoes in a catalog?

  22. John 62

    Linux <> UNIX

    Meltemi/Meego/Maemo: none of these are UNIX any more than Android is UNIX. They may be POSIX compatible, but iOS is the most UNIXy of the OSes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux <> UNIX

      UNIX is a trade mark. iOS and Linux are iOS and Linux, UNIX-like, POSIX compatible, like BSD..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux <> UNIX

      Surely POSIX compliant, not POSIX compatible?

      They do what POSIX tells them, they aren't just friendly towards it.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Linux <> UNIX

        Yeah, don't POSIX_ME_HARDER, thanks.

        POSIX? what a load of crap ... etc/GMT-1 is POSIX notation for what the world knows as GMT+1.

        The POSIX guyz should not be allowed near calculators, let alone computers. Who in their right mind decided we should all listen to those twats ????

  23. Frank Long

    Maemo/Meego was ready for the big time and while Nokia were incredibly slow getting phones to market, they were getting them there.

    The ‘Burning Platforms’ speech sent everything off the cliff, any chance of a rampdown disappeared with it. They had a few options, they could have made Symbian fit for purpose (not an attractive option, but certainly an option), they could have ramped up Meego or they could have cobbled together Android devices to cover the gap between a competitive Windows Phone platform and where it was in 2011.

    They chose none of the above. Elop was certainly good for bringing focus to the organisation, but the decisions he took led to the destruction of Nokia as an operator in the smartphone market.

    This was despite significant advantages, from an efficient supply chain, to leading cameras, to battery life and a strong brand. In 2011, Interbrand ranked Nokia as the world’s 14th strongest brand (down from 8th in 2010).

    Today, they’re ranked 98th.

    Next year, they won’t even be a mobile phone brand. That is, unless they launch some Android phone or acquire Jolla, as some suspect they will do.

    1. Jess

      they could have made Symbian fit for purpose (not an attractive option, but certainly an option)

      The difference between the last version of symbian on the N8 and the version on an e71 or an e63 is huge. Had Carla not been cancelled and had been as big an improvement as the previous versions, then it would have been. Belle is mostly fit for purpose. Just a few nasties, here and there, but I'd certainly not prefer a Samsung to an N8 (before the loss of support).

    2. Rocco

      Re: aemo/Meego was ready for the big time

      No it wasnt - there was continual dithering over the UX and frequent direction changes. It would have been ready for the Big Time much earlier if they had chosen a single direction and stuck with it.

  24. Aoyagi Aichou

    Marketing aside, I'd like to know how was/is Android more capable than Symbian, thank you. (Note that I'm asking about the OS)

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Wrong comparison

      Android is the layer that runs Java like applications using a slightly forked (or not depending on version) Linux as OS.

      Symbian is only an OS. Crystal ,S80 S60, Anna etc are the GUI/Application layers on it. Symbian wasn't ever really the problem. The problem was the layers above it. They decided on QT as layer for Symbian far too late and then stupidly bought Trolltech and trashed the management instead of outsourcing to Trolltech.

      I built a 4G (not LTE or WiMax) touch VOIP 'phone' using Debian and we demoed the PDA versions and Phone versions of QT on it in early 2007. The 'modem/Radio' was a prototype PCMCIA laptop card that had the aerial bump just visible at top of handset.

      Nokia had totally lost the plot long before 2006

  25. Christian Berger Silver badge

    The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

    I mean if you ignore Maemo/Meego it looks like Elop did his best to save Nokia. After all Symbian wasn't really competitive.

    However Nokia had Maemo/Meego, based on Debian and still something many Android users want to have instead of Android. Heck you could even run Abiword on it if you wanted. It was the closest thing to an actual useful mobile computer we had so far.

    Elop axing Maemo/Meego was proof that he didn't intend to save the company. If he wanted to do that he'd have brought out the same handsets for Symbian and Maemo/Meego, perhaps if he really saw Windows Phone as a potential alternative, he could have brought out the same hardware with Windows, too. That would have been possible at next to no cost overhead.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

      "Elop axing Maemo/Meego was proof that he didn't intend to save the company. If he wanted to do that he'd have brought out the same handsets for Symbian and Maemo/Meego, perhaps if he really saw Windows Phone as a potential alternative, he could have brought out the same hardware with Windows, too. That would have been possible at next to no cost overhead."

      Yes, not sure about "no cost overhead" but perhaps the simple truth is that he knew nothing about running a company and nothing about phones, just totally worthless for the task.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

        " but perhaps the simple truth is that he knew nothing about running a company and nothing about phones, just totally worthless for the task."

        IMO, this nails it in one! And now, Microsoft's stuck with him again.

        At least this time they've made him a VP, about as harmless on the foodchain you can get in a modern company.

        (Seriously, call your local Tesco and ask to speak to the VP in charge of produce, they'll ask you "Fresh or canned?")

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

          call your local Tesco and ask to speak to the VP in charge of produce, they'll ask you "Fresh or canned?"

          No. More like "yes? speaking"

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge

        Re: The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

        Elop was raised to believe Linux is cancer ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

      I strongly suspect Nokia was worried that Maemo/Meego wasn't going to save them, were no longer sure what would. They had dug themselves into a mess they could see no easy way out of and it was basically, fuck it, call Microsoft; they have deep pockets.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: The proof is the axing of Maemo/Meego

        Well there is a point about not explaining things with malice which could be explained by incompetence... however in this case we cannot discount the "mole" hypothesis. The deal probably was very lucrative for Microsoft and certainly more so after Elop went on board.

        If Elop was just incompetent, he would have done a few things right by pure luck. However what he did was to precisely kill off any future Nokia had. I mean what are the chances of killing off 2 lines of successful operating system (Symbian, Maemo) while choosing probably the worst external system (Windows Phone). If he wanted to save the company, he'd at least have gone for several alternatives, and those would have included Android. After all, we'd all kill for a modern day Nokia Communicator running Android or Maemo.

  26. big_masa

    Andriod vs. Win

    Sure the right choice for Nokia was to adopt Andriod instead of Windows platform. Android was well established at the time and Nokia could start shipping products much sooner than waiting for 18 months for the OS to be baked by Microsoft.

    And for Microsoft, wasn't BB a much better choice? They had the enterprise as Microsoft had.

    A great value distruction in both Nokia and Microsoft.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about Hurd

    Surely Mark Hurd has to be up there with Elop as one of the most disasterous CEOs in history. Astonishly, after he managed to create an almighty mess at HP, he went on to make another mess at Oracle - although he hasn't quite finished there yet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about Hurd

      The disaster is the entire concept of the celebrity CEO. The US fought a revolution to escape from the tyranny of the monarchical system, seeing how many monarchs were incapable, psychopathic or just plain bonkers. They then invented a system of running companies which basically turned them into small monarchies, and wondered why it sucked.

  28. ecofeco Silver badge

    Tojan Horse conspriacy?

    There was no conspiracy, only fact.

    I had friends in the phone business (long term insiders to much of our digital world) who predicted exactly what eventually happened the very WEEK he was made CEO. Not just one lucky crazy friend, but several.

    And to say that corporations don't poison/cripple/destroy other corporations any way they can is incredible, incredible naivete. Especially when it comes to American companies.

    As an example, ever heard of the technique used by VCs to kill off other start-up competition to the business they are funding? They approach the other start up competition and string them along for months, get them to sign exclusivity contracts, string them along a few more months and then say "Oops, sorry, no money for you" by which time, the company being stalked has used up all of their remaining funds and goes out of business.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tojan Horse conspriacy?

      Elop was only the final nail in the coffin. Everyone knew it was over when he arrived, but many had seen the writing on the wall long before then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tojan Horse conspriacy?

        Horse, nail, writing on the wall - perhaps Elop just was all at sea among all the mixed metaphors.

  29. tp2

    Burning platforms memo essential

    The burning platforms memo in 2011 february was absolutely essential. Platform change is so difficult thing to execute, that it caused a gap in Nokia's ability to produce phones. Half year with no new phones shipped is a huge catastrophy to a market which constantly expects millions of phones arriving from a factory. They definitely needed drop in demand to deal with the gap. Windows phone shipments still has not ramped up to produce enough phones, and it's been years trying to do it.

    Everything you see in the marketplace has been designed half year beforhand, and I expect burning platforms memo to be no different. Switching platforms under constant demand of new devices is not an easy task, Drop in demand was necessary part of the process. Elop took the blame for killing the phone business. Real problem was that they couldnt produce _any_ phones during platform transition process. Moving from millions of phones to no phones available is a big change.

    Windows phone devices are completely different from old symbian phones. Almost every aspect of it changed -- different kind of cpu, the whole phone internals has been redesigned, and the software stack is completely changed. It's amazing they managed to do it in such small distruption in the production process. And the windows phone quality was amazingly good, compared to the fact that they started from scratch. Fresh start is definitely something they needed.

  30. Herby Silver badge

    Most cell phone providers missed the boat...

    In he year or so before, there was a quantum shift in the "customer" of phones. Before it was the phone companies that specified the "features" and dictated what was delivered. In this market, Nokia thrived. They developed and made just what the phone companies wanted. Something that talked and did a few "features" that they specified (messaging). Then along comes the fruity company and it makes a phone for the end consumer. Now the phone companies don't dictate "features", the end consumers (you and me) dictate. Lots of companies didn't see this shift, and ignored it at their peril. Nokia was but one. To further shift things, along comes Android to push things further. The shift to WP by Nokia was the realization that they didn't see it coming, and were trying to catch up.

    Sorry Nokia, too little too late. One may argue that WP was a good/bad idea, and that is the continuing topic, but something needed to shift and Nokia shifted WAY too late.

    As for Microsoft and Windows Phone, one should heed the words of Jack Welch: "First (Android), Second (iPhone), or get out of the way (Microsoft!)". Microsoft isn't used to NOT being in a dominate place, and they do quite a bit of fumbling which doesn't help themselves. They think they can unite the platforms to squeeze out #1 and #2, but it isn't working out.

    Wait till Google gets ahold of desktops and tries to unite with its phones. That might even be interesting. I might even shed a tear (or not as the case may be).

  31. Levente Szileszky

    No, silly... he was the Torjan horse of Blammer...

    ...as many of us we predicted on these pages as soon as his name came up first, well ahead of his tenure and the eventual sellout. He was a beancounter with no meaningful experience, it was OBVIOUS he's there to bring down the price of Nokia's excellent hardware/design divbision and top-notch worldwide distribution channel, that's all MSFT wanted from the beginning, nothing else, and those utterly clueless idiots sitting on the board of Nokia went along with it, causing probably the single biggest shareholder loss in Finnish history. They ought to be sued off everything, even their apartments, cars, pants.

  32. ScissorHands
    Pint

    I don't care anymore

    I have an N9, best phone UI I have ever put my hands on, some others may be better for "tablet-y" or "computer-y" but I swapped my black 64GB to a white case, and have a blue case and extra battery on standby. I couldn't care less about smartphones nowadays, next to the N9 it's all a big gawping yawn...

  33. Franco Silver badge

    I'm assuming this book was ghost written by Enrique Salem to gloss over the complete charlie-foxtrot that was his management of Symantec.

    Can't deny Nokia got to the top then got complacent, but it's happened to IBM and Symantec in the past, is happening to Apple right now and will no doubt happen to Samsung in the future

  34. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Well, both are true to some extent

    I still think Elop was a very poor CEO; I don't know about history's worst, but he wasn't that good.

    It is true that Elop inherited a dysfunctional company. Nokia's phones were selling well, but the Symbian S60 and S40 technological bases were technologically obsolete, apparently S60 made some pretty unusual use of C++ to speed things up (and probably save RAM) but making the API much more difficult than usual to use. They had multiple development projects dividing up resources, and several seemed to clearly be dead ends.

    I'd say the first problem, Nokia was investing too much time and money into S60; they got Qt running on it, which extended S60's useful life some more years, but they really shouldn't have kept working on it further.

    The Linux phone development was going pretty well, they had shipped a few nice wifi-only devices and one or two phones (N900 and the like.) They did have problems in that it sounds like this development was also quite scattered, including some team trying to make an S60-like environment to run on the Linux kernel. They were also (if I recall correctly) working on both Maemo and Meego. It sounds like these Maemo devices may have shipped a bit before the software was ready, but the software was fixed up pretty nicely via updates and these ended up being pretty nice; Nokia had been planning to ship the next iteration of these within a year or so.

    Elop stepped in. He announced their current products were crap, making sure sales of their current devices would dry up quick. He axed development of all projects (other than hardware development of the next phone), including the ones that were shipping working products, to go with an unknown from Microsoft exclusively. I know the claim is that it was unforseeable that Windows Phone 7 turned out the way it was for them, but it kind of was clear that with Windows Phone 7, it was effectively a version 1 product (in terms of being so significantly different from Windows CE), and was therefore high risk.

    If it were me... 1) I wouldn't say your existing products are crap! If people are still buying S60-based stuff, go ahead and sell it. 2) I would have cancelled some of the dead-end development projects, but Elop axed basically everything but the hardware development. I would have seen Maemo was shipping working products while Meego was not close to being there, and scrapped Meego development (pulling the useful portions into Maemo if possible.). 3) They should have worked up the new phones, but running a choice of Maemo or Windows Phone 7, since both were already running on it during development. They wouldn't have had their stock dive from the S60 sales dropping dead, and they would have had some S40 and S60 phones to sell, along with Maemo if Windows Phone 7 didn't sell how they hoped.

    Microsoft did have a similar situation, the Windows CE API and kernel resembled Windows 3.1 more than a modern Windows version. Windows 7 Phone (and 8) do have a reasonably complete win32 API; they also went right to managed code so a lot of this is inaccessible, which from a security perspective is probably just as well.

  35. James Anderson

    The shop has a hundred phones all looking the same but slightly different ....

    some cost $20 some cost $400.

    Nokia was s****d long before ELOP took over because its product development department turned into a workfare scheme for mediocre designers.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lock in

    If I wasn't lazy I'd look into whether there was any change in the number of Microsoft executives head hunted by other firms these days. Maybe Microsoft came up with a way to extend lock in to their staff?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even if your friends predicted what would happen it doesn't necessarily mean he was a Trojan horse.

    He was hired by the Nokia board and everything he did was signed off by the Nokia board. The board defined his incentives. The board are as responsible for what happened as Elop. If they were not then there was an even bigger problem with corporate governance.

    I think that in 2010 the board realized just how big a problem they had. Uncompetitive products (Devices and Ovi Services), massive R&D spend, poor execution, etc. They made the change and although they would have hoped for a positive conclusion they also realized they needed an exit strategy if things didn't turn out. Going for Elop and Microsoft was part of that exit strategy, hence Elop got a bonus when the sale was completed. I am sure he would have got an even bigger bonus if he had returned Nokia to its earlier position in the business.

    I wonder if anyone will write a book on how Nokia got to the point were it needed saving and hired Elop?

  38. Munkstar

    I have had em all

    As the owner of android, Apple and Windows phones I can state with minor authority .... I'm buying another Nokia. I only ever want to be paying £200 for a useful mobile (I have a good sim deal), the 735 is good enough even though I have no major need for the hyped selfie option. The main issue for the Windows phone is the lack of a comprehensive range of Apps, there are clearly some holes in my needs but that's a compromise I accept. The Apples are too expensive from entry level and the latest Android I have is an xperia L that deserves death by hammer. Frustrating would be kind. It's been rooted back to factory reset more than once (professionally) but this week is convinced there's no room for updates and most apps can stay hidden deep somewhere. Nokia as a business should of added Android as a choice, maybe that was not an option when taking on the Windows contract instead?

  39. Marvin the Martian

    Sleeve designer missed a trick.

    Why is there no subtitle printed on a semi-transparent background slightly at an angle and slightly overlapping the title?

    So that there's ambiguity in FLOP/ELOP in the title?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they don't teach failure at these fancy business schools

    I don't fault Elop for the burning platforms memo: he probably came on board, saw which way the wind was blowing and decided that the workforce needed a grade-A kick up the backside to instil a sense of urgency. He was bang on the money in that regard. Where he and the Nokia board screwed up royally was to believe that he had a viable alternative in Microsoft, both technically (i.e. that WP worked well enough) and commercially (WP phones could ship quickly enough). Betting the farm on Microsoft and enduring the inevitable Osborne effect with the Symbian platform was, in hindsight, a terrible move.

    Pulling off an operating system transition is one of the hardest things a technology company can do. Our industry is littered with failures: IBM DOS to OS/2, Apple OS 7 to Pink to Taligent to pretty much anything (nearly destroyed the company until Jobs showed up with NextStep), Symbian to Meego to WP. They really ought to teach failures like this in business school instead of trumpeting how wonderful FedEx is and how everyone should read Michael Porter, which seems to be what you $60,000 buys you at Harvard these days.

  41. herman Silver badge

    "That was Leningrad, sorry.

    No, it was Stalingrad. Leningrad was supplied over a lake under German fire."

    No, it was St Petersburg, you dum dum...

    ;)

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