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

          LDS

          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.

        4. kirk_augustin@yahoo.com

          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
    Meh

    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

    Cruel

    This is just ghoulish rubber-necking.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Cruel

      New to the internet are we?

    2. Ian K
      WTF?

      Re: Cruel

      You say that like it's a bad thing.

  4. Starace
    Flame

    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
      Joke

      "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.

  9. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Did I miss something in 2014?

    Throughout 2014, Microsoft continued to release excellent products that had been in the pipeline

    There was the...errr....and the...errrr

    Ok, you've go me, what are these mythical excellent Microsoft products which you talk about ?

  10. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Yes, Nokia was struggling when MS took over, but lets not suggest that Nokia was a guarantee to fail.

    What you got was a culture clash between Corporate America and Finnish Social aware business. Not only what, but the tail was wagging the dog with Microsoft who had a terrible record in mobile phones telling Nokia what the market wanted.

    Nokia had enough name recognition and good will, to of pulled themselves out of it. If they had dumped the competing platforms, offered to build Windows phones while at the same time did a deal with Google to create android flagships, they could of played both off against each other while leveraging there production and design strengths.

    Elop was the problem. He was brought in and sold Nokia a pup

    1. Cavehomme_

      Exactly this.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Exactly this"

        But not exactly this: "to of pulled themselves out of it. "

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          In content, not in, er syntax.

      2. 's water music Silver badge
        Trollface

        Exactly this.

        Apart from the of/have near-homonym howler obvs. I can't believe it has only attracted one downvote (so far, and it wasn't me)

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      FAIL

      "Microsoft who had a terrible record in mobile phones telling Nokia what the market wanted"

      When was the last time Microsoft actually got it right about when the market wanted? Oh right, when IBM needed an operating system ...

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "Elop was the problem. He was brought in and sold Nokia a pup"

      Or the other way round? It looks it was Nokia to sell Microsoft a pup... they got the cash, and MS a "burning platform" - and Redmond paid a lot for what now are only ashes....

    4. Paul Shirley

      Maybe after Nokia continually failed to complete or release new platforms they turned to a company with experience of releasing unfinished software. Perhaps Elop dumping everything for a new unfinished platform isn't so far from what they hired him to do, pushing unfinished crap out till the market accepted it, only surprise being when he chose an external bit of crapware not the internally one!

    5. Steve Evans

      Indeed. Elop was a shill shipped in by M$ to turn Nokia into Microsoft mobile.

      Unfortunately Nokia had already started to eat itself from the inside before he even arrived, and it would have taken a business genius to have slapped the heads together and got it running straight again, this is not a job description that fits Elop.

  11. finch1234

    Nokia lost the day they decided to shut all in house OSs in favour of an OS that was made by someone else

    they gambled on putting all the eggs in someone else's basket and then that someone else just dropped it.

    Meego could have been a terrific OS had Nokia allocated some resources to it and built up the app portfolio. Alas they did not. I feel very sorry for the people for Finland

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We were a supplier to Nokia. Horrible company to deal with. I'll take Ericsson any day, nice people and competent too.

      1. keithzg

        Nokia's history, particularly leading up to the end, was definitely one of the engineers working wonders and management being giant self-serving pricks.

      2. Johan Bastiaansen

        But, but, but . . .

        These Scandinavians are so very ethical

        ...

        and competent.

    2. The Oncoming Scorn
      Joke

      Chorus : Finland, Finland, Finland.

      The country where I want to be,

      Pony trekking or camping,

      Or just watching TV,

      Finland, Finland, Finland.

      It's the country for me.

      Verse : You're so near to Russia.

      So far from Japan,

      Quite a long way from Cairo,

      Lots of miles from Vietnam.

      Chorus : Finland, Finland, Finland.

      The country where I want to be,

      Eating breakfast or dinner,

      Or snack lunch in the Hall,

      Finland, Finland, Finland.

      Finland has it all.

      Verse: You're so sadly neglected,

      And often ignored.

      A poor second to Belgium,

      When going abroad.

      Chorus : Finland, Finland, Finland.

      The country where I quite want to be,

      Your mountains so lofty,

      Your treetops so tall,

      Finland, Finland, Finland.

      Finland has it all.

      Repeat : Finland, Finland, Finland.

      The country where I quite want to be,

      Your treetops so tall,

      Finland, Finland, Finland.

      Finland has it all.

      Fade : Finland has it all ...

  12. Jeyell

    So much rich manure

    Ballmer was a 'squeeze the operation for profit' guy, like Cook, not an innovator or market observer and visionary. Yet with so much Windows Mobile and world class Nokia expertise on-board how could they miss? They had everything or the capability to do create it, if not at hand. So much steaming potential that rotted away to a bad smell. Maybe if they had installed saunas in Seattle...

    Good doc on Nokia's fall on BBC Four a while ago.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fully paid up member of the Elop Conspiracy Theory Crew here...

    ..because I had seen up close how he had operated for years at Macromedia, then Adobe. A classic back stabbing political operator, who like all operators, was completely incompetent at everything except advancing his career and lining his own pocket through options, bonuses, etc. So when he jumped (or looked like pushed) to the shark pool in Redmond I thought - thats his sort of place. The MS C-suite has always been a cess pool full of bobbing turds.

    Then when the Nokia news was announced, Elop as CEO, I had not a single moments doubt that Elops cunning plan from the get go was to sell Nokia to MS. That was the only plan that would make Elop very very rich no matter how incompetent an executive he is. Which he always was. He had zero of the necessary business skills to run a company like Nokia successfully. But he had all the necessary skills to destroy the company. Which he promptly did.

    There was never going to be any other outcome from day one of the Nokia board making Elop CEO.

    I did mention that killing Nokia made Elop very very rich. Before that he was only very rich.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: Fully paid up member of the Elop Conspiracy Theory Crew here...

      > I had not a single moments doubt that Elops cunning plan from the get go was to sell Nokia to MS.

      His contract gave him $25million if MS bought Nokia phone division. That was his only plan.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fully paid up member of the Elop Conspiracy Theory Crew here...

        Thats not how the game is played. What is in the public domain is quite different from what happens behind the scenes. At the level Elop played you can be sure that all compensation negotiations , direct and indirect, were very very carefully choreographed and that not everything makes its way to the 10K's/10Q's and other SEC docs. Quite the opposite. I personally know at least two stories of two very large public tech companies where the publicly released info only gave a hint of what was actually happening behind the scenes and the final payoff for those involved was a very large multiple of the number you might have been able to infer from the SEC docs. The principals of the less sophisticated of the two operations did end up paying some capital gains tax, on a very large number, but the much more impressive other operation turned a very large buy back into an almost tax free net transfer to the principals using some very interesting derivative instruments. With those sort of numbers its most efficient to start thinking of the individual involved as a private equity / hedge fund and structure accordingly.

        We are not in 1040 Kansas anymore.

        As I said, this is how the game is played at this level. If it seems a bit far fetched all this means is that you have never actually seen up close how it works inside these companies. Thats all. Ever had to consider a potential seven figure annual tax bill if you took a position? Not unusual in this line of work, hence the very serious tax / financial planning. How about an potential eight figure tax bill. Now we are talking the interesting stuff. Which will never show up in the public records.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fully paid up member of the Elop Conspiracy Theory Crew here...

          Good to read something that someone knows about as opposed to the myriad of amateur opinions.

  14. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Neither the Finns nor Nadella

    The man who killed the Nokia phone business was Ballmer. He sent Elop to Nokia and Elop burned the platform without giving any replacement soon enough to stop the slide. He announced Nokia will be 'Windows only", The day he did that, I told my wife "Nokia is committing suicide". I was right.

    However Nokia itself (the company) survived also due to Ballmer. His decision to buy the phone part of Nokia saved them making iit possible to pay off debtors. Microsoft wrote off all that money as loss the next year but that was not Nadella's fault. Nadella just stopped the large money stream going straight to a black hole ear after year.

  15. DougS Silver badge

    Nokia just showed an 'interesting' phone

    Five cameras on the back in a circular array. The jokes that cameras were becoming like razor blades in the SNL skit that called the five blade razors may have likewise called the future for smartphones.

    Interesting that Nokia always seem to be prioritize the camera. While I think the improvements over cameras a decade ago are great, the improvement in the photo/video capability between my iPhone 6S plus and iPhone X is pretty marginal, and further improvements are increasingly marginal. Why would the average person (or even average flagship phone owner) want five cameras, aside from "its more than four"?

  16. adnim Silver badge
    Joke

    Seems from the comments

    a lot of people care, well at least enough to comment.

    Welcome to my hypocrisy... I don't.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a much better conspiracy theory.

    And that might be about a certain Uncle, let's call him Sam, requesting Microsoft's help to rid the world of the only mobile OS platform not under the control of a US corporation? See also Skype, which was fully encrypted and peer-to-peer before being purchased. Now, it's a lovely "modern cloud based" platform, where all voice, video and messages go via services controlled by a US company.

  18. Herby Silver badge

    Finland???

    Maybe those who get "away" from there are the ones that get things done. Maybe there is an example of that. What was his name? I think it started with 'L'.

  19. Cavehomme_

    MS are the scapegoat?

    I knew Nokia was losing the plot before any MS involvement. The superb hardware of the E71 and E72 was equipped with a highly confusing OS and functions scattered all over the place. Syncing with PC often failed. Some email accounts simply did not work. Then contacting customer service, well, their arrogance and unhelpfulness was staggering.

    It’s arrogant and indeed even clueless to suggest that their own OS’ were good and simple enough for the average user to become world leading in the way that iOS and Anroid became. Windows Mobile was way beter as wwere later incarnations, yet they failed for other reasons, so it’s not just about the OS either.

    Now HMD are doing well because they’ve resolve the issues by coming at the problem in a different way. I wish them luck. Their phones look decent and I think they will do well.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: MS are the scapegoat?

      Yes, Nokia started losing the plot long before messing up with Linux, Trolltec / QT etc.

      Banking on S60, killing Crystal and S80. What they needed OS wise was the N9210i with a touch screen. They could have done versions like later 5800 and E65 and Blackberry as well as N9210 factor (which was a bit like the Gemini). The internal management was killing the phone division. Was the real plan, all along, in bringing in Elop, to flog a dead horse to MS? MS didn't get any IP or even the name.

      If Elop was a Trojan Horse, then MS was Troy.

      Also the Ovi store killed Nokia Widgets (useful on N65) and the Symbian Ecosystem. They could not turn an open ecosystem into iTunes / Playstore. By time of the N65, the S60 GUI on top of Symbian was a mess.

      Also capacitive and resistive touch screens existed on LCD devices from the late 1980s, but the use case was deemed to be annotation and text recognition for corporate. Before iPhone operator deals only rich people or business users could afford the data charges. There was no perceived need for mainly consumption GUI that could use capacitive touch (it's finger resolution, resistive is stylus / annotation resolution).

      So Nokia's phones doomed by internal politics and too late react to cheaper data tariffs.

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: MS are the scapegoat?

      I agree, Nokia's customer service and support forum was full of arrogant idiots.

      I once got moderated in the forum for "disrespecting Nokia". I pointed out to the moderator that I was just reporting the same bug as everyone else, and expressing frustration that no attempt had been made to address it in over 6 months. I also suggested that as an employee of Nokia, they should be concerned that such a large number of previously loyal customers were feeling this way.

      I gave up and bought an Android phone.

      Within 6 months Elop arrived and the decline turned into a wingless death spiral.

      I wonder what the forum moderator is doing now. Not out of work too long I hope.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: MS are the scapegoat?

        That is true for basically _any_ forum on the internet run by a corporate entity (and most non-corporate ones as well): "say anything not nice about us, or dare even just discussing anything related to moderation and bang you're perma-banned". And absolutely all mods are dicks - it's an occupational hazard; don't ever try to talk sense with them no matter how undeniably right you might be and no matter how civil a tone you might use - the mere act of talking back to them, of contesting their decisions is intolerable and prompts swift and merciless reprisals. You're wrong by definition, they're right by definition, full stop. In the corporate view your only right on their boards is to do their job for them for free by supporting your fellow forum members with their questions that no official rep (there aren't any) will ever bother to chime in on - in my view they can all go to hell in a handbasket, mods up front.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nokia is dead! Long live Nokia!

    I believe they are producing some phones again.

    Nokia Networks is going strong.

    HERE (formerly Navteq & Nokia Maps) was successfully sold for good money (Microsoft didn't want to buy it), and is still chugging along.

    It really looks like Microsoft were the schmucks here. Nokia did the smartest thing it could do in that position at that time. It's a pity Microsoft screwed it up, but no surprise.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Nokia is dead! Long live Nokia!

      "producing some phones again"

      No, like Blackberry by TCL. and other brands it's a licenced badge.

      Curiously Nokia also now owns the Alcatel brand used by TCL, though TCL seems to have made phones for Alcatel when Alcatel still existed.

      You can also buy Roberts, Bush, Grundig, RCA, Telefunken Goodmans, Philips, Motorola and Akai AV related stuff. None of those really exist now. Also now just badges are Russell Hobbs, Morphy Richards and many other UK household names.

      Yes, Nokia Networks and some other parts of Nokia are profitable. The Networks part bought the network infrastructure parts of Motorola, Siemens and Alcatel. Unless they improve management and how they relate to customers, the Chinese companies will wipe them out.

      1. hopkinse

        Re: Nokia is dead! Long live Nokia!

        It's a bit different from the usual brand badging, in that Nokia have a stake, and input into the company and a lot of ex-Nokia people are working there. It's not the Nokia of old but time will tell if they can survive.

  21. Mikel

    Not far enough back.

    During his global farewell tour a lucky journalist asked Bill Gates about regrets. About retiring and aspirations not completed. He replied "I didn't beat Nokia." That was the inspiration for his successor to achieve the goal he could not.

    Ballmer followed the example of Sendo documented here, where Microsoft's Marc Brown sat on the company's board and killed it from within. On his own retirement Nokia's chairman said that "American investors" had made it clear to him that he would appoint Microsoft's Elop as CEO or he would be replaced and Elop would get the seat anyway.

    Before he even sat in that chair Elop had negotiated a compensation package structured in such a way that if he killed the company and sold its corpse to Microsoft, he would achieve the maximum personal benefit. He knew from the first day that was his objective: to get the price down to the point where Microsoft could buy it.

    It collapsed the economy of Finland. The Finnish government retirement fund was nearly wiped out. I don't know why Finland didn't lock the lot of them up for industrial sabotage.

    1. Mikel

      Re: Not far enough back.

      By the way: I was here when this happened. I posted here before the fact how, when and why this was going to happen. If you can review my comments that far back you can see that I knew and I warned everyone who would listen.

      If you suffered in this plot, at least I am blameless.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not far enough back.

        Here is one of your posts at the time..

        https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/1945661

        which dovetails exactly with what I was hearing at the time. Nokia was toast from the moment Elop was made CEO.

        I dont think anyone who actually knew how MS operates, and knows their history all the way back to the MITS, Burgermaster days, is the slightest bit surprised that they did what they did. Or lost so much money doing it. A very very long MS tradition. Given two multi tens of billions net monopolies with 95% plus net margins you got to lose enough money somehow to keep the Fed Anti Trust Division at bay. And if the money was usually lost denying competitors, actual or potential, any real profit margin so much the better.

        MS many huge losses over the decades only make sense if you see the strategic and tactical reasons for MS to lose this money. Of course some of them were just pure corporate stupidity and upper management empire building. But there is a method to this madness. Defend the two core monopoly products revenue and margins at all cost. After a couple of hundred billion in profits over the decades you cannot say it has not worked.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Nokia was toast from the moment Elop was made CEO"

          Nokia was toast the day Apple released the iPhone. They didn't understand the changing market, and banged their heads around looking for a solution they never found.

          Windows monopolies are shrinking, and mobile platforms are one reason of it (the other is the cloud, where AWS is at over 50% and MS only at 13%).

          Having a mobile working strategy should have been one of their top priorities, two CEOs failed it greatly.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: "Nokia was toast from the moment Elop was made CEO"

            It's more that Microsoft's mobile strategy seemed to be built around bullying rather than user friendliness. Trying to bully users to accept a Desktop OS that would tie them to a mobile OS. And trying to bully them into either over priced or cheap cut-down to-the-bone (so still over priced in effect) models when something middle of the road with good features ranges was needed ( e.g having a single crappy camera when Androids were all starting to come out with two decent cameras, or having no compass etc)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Here is one of your posts at the time.."

          He asserted MS would have got the IP - actually MS didn't get the IP nor the brand - just a ten years license for them (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nokia-microsoft-patents-idUSBRE9820ZZ20130903).

          So it looks the OP knew very little about what was going on at Nokia.

          So it really looks Nokia sold a dying business to MS, got a lot of money, kept the valuable part, and avoided the stigma of laying off thousand of people, letting MS the "honor" of becoming the head cutter.

          In hindsight, it was a very cunning plan devised by Nokia management, they failed spectacularly at delivering appealing smartphones in time, but they knew how to save their butts and run away with the cash.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not far enough back.

      It looks to me the Finnish got away with almost 9 billions, and left an hot potato in MS hands - so it could be blamed for all the layoffs Nokia should have done itself anyway after failing over and over to counter the competition of Apple first and the Android barbarians later. Paying some millions to Elop to con MS into the plan was not that much, after all.

      It wasn't like MS got a successful company at the acme its success, and the top seller of phones - it got as struggling company that was no longer able to compete and was beaten hard by Apple, Samsung and even other smaller companies.

  22. Tom Kelsall
    Thumb Down

    Apologies if someone else said it...

    ...but Microsoft pulled a very similar number on HTC, too. All excited and helped HTC to produce 2 (actually very good) Windows Phones (the 8S and 8X); but once they were in production Microsoft went completely cold and walked away from marketing them, helping HTC market them, or even acknowledging them. In fact, I'm told that as soon as the phones went into production and on sale, HTC's brass couldn't even get meetings with Microsoft any more. It was utterly bizarre. I mean - things were clearly not right at Nokia for a long time before any involvement with M$ at all; but something was also rotting badly at M$ as well.

  23. Tommy Pock

    Huge shame, really. The Lumia 1020 is the best smartphone ever made.

    1. hopkinse

      I'm still using my 1020 I bought when it was released, still on it's original battery too!

  24. WatAWorld
    Trollface

    You could equally say that about France, Germany, Algeria and Argentina

    "Finland – a nation most Americans couldn't find on a map before the 1990s. Many probably still can't."

    ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You could equally say that about France, Germany, Algeria and Argentina

      I wonder how many Americans can find their own state on a map... especially those who have been taught the Earth is flat...

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: You could equally say that about France, Germany, Algeria and Argentina

      It may be apocryphal. When there were bomb attacks in Vienna Americans cancelled trips to Australia.

  25. CPU

    Nokia was 80% of the sales of Windows Phone. But Nokia really wanted to go Android with the new Lumia, so MS risked losing that and their share of the smart phone market, so they had to buy Nokia; they didn't have to screw it up so royally.

    Nokia reported a 17 percent drop in full-year net sales in 2013 to 12.7 billion euros ($17.3 billion). However, net sales came in at 3.5 billion euros in the fourth quarter, up 18 percent on the same quarter a year before. Profits were made by year end ($585 million profit in Q4 on $10.73 billion in revenue), coming after 18 months of loss- overall sales figures had been declining since 2011.

    Microsoft had been have a rough time aboard the good ship Windows (inc Mobile), with leaks everywhere below the sales water line. Nokia's raft was seriously burnt on sales\ profits, and alas, they made the choice to jump ship to M$ completely.

  26. CPU

    Follow da money

    Nokia was 80% of the sales of Windows Phone. But Nokia really wanted to go Android with the new Lumia, so MS risked losing that and their share of the smart phone market, so they had to buy Nokia; they didn't have to screw it up so royally.

    Nokia reported a 17 percent drop in full-year net sales in 2013 to 12.7 billion euros ($17.3 billion). However, net sales came in at 3.5 billion euros in the fourth quarter, up 18 percent on the same quarter a year before. Profits were made by year end ($585 million profit in Q4 on $10.73 billion in revenue), coming after 18 months of loss- overall sales figures had been declining since 2011.

    Microsoft had been have a rough time aboard the good ship Windows (inc Mobile), with leaks everywhere below the sales water line. Nokia's raft was seriously burnt on sales\ profits, and alas, they made the choice to jump ship to M$ completely.

  27. bordersboy

    Not uncommon

    So once analysed yet another incompetent board puts an increasingly incompetent CEO in charge to run a successful business into the ground. The only good thing was MS (love or hate) did survive.

    Look to GEC/Marconi and George Simpson and the mess he left behind

    Scary thing is it continues to go on

  28. Philip Thatcher
    Happy

    Generations?

    Did anyone else initially think the photo was Picard and Kirk from Generations? No? Just me then.

  29. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Activity Theory

    I have to admire Andrew's dedication to curmudgeonliness. Often his pieces remind me of a line from Albert the Alligator of Pogo fame: "I don't understand it and it don't mean nothin'".

    Vygotsky's ideas certainly have their limitations; like everything else in the social sciences, they've been much critiqued and revised in the nearly 80 years since his death. But he's hardly "obscure" in HCI (certainly not since SSAT started to appear in English-language journals) or real UI/UX design.

    And activity theory (which is really a family or category of theoretical frameworks, not a "theory" even in the loose humanities sense) is still used in both theoretical and practical applications. For an example of the former see Spinuzzi's Network. For the latter, I can only note that I've spoken to UI/UX designers who make use of it.

    Also, while I admit I have a leg up, since I'm already familiar with activity theory, I must point out that the diagram presented in the article was immediately comprehensible to me. It's not particularly useful, as it's extremely high-level and general; but its meaning is obvious to anyone familiar with the basics of AT.

    Not everything you don't understand is "garbage", Andrew.

    That said, was AT a good approach for Nokia's UI designers? It doesn't appear so, and indeed I'd never suggest that a UI (or UX; maybe, at a very high level, a UIM) should be "based on" AT, whatever that might mean. AT is a way of describing and analyzing interactions. That's necessary to good UI design, but by no means sufficient.

  30. Munkstar

    In a draw somewhere

    Great mobile phones and intuitive OS, only the third party support dropped daily made them unviable.

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