Let’s be perfectly clear here: Dramatic headlines aside, I’m not suggesting for a moment that the Finnish phone maker is suddenly going to go bankrupt, or even cease to be a dominant player in the mobile industry. But with their infamous announcement of February 11th I feel very strongly that, like Microsoft, Nokia’s days as an innovator are pretty much over.
A lot of Nokia fans were surprised by the news, as was I — a little. As soon as I started hearing the rumours of a Nokia adopting Windows Phone it immediately made sense.
Let’s connect the dots, shall we?
I. The Booklet
Early in 2010 I got to play with Nokia’s first netbook. I was, quite frankly, shocked that it couldn’t run Intel’s own Moblin distro — and ditto for MeeGo, the Linux Foundation-approved alliance between Nokia and Intel. But it was, best as I can recall, the first low-powered laptop to ship with Windows 7 rather than XP.
In netbook circles it’s pretty much accepted as fact that Microsoft has bullied their licensees to ship XP instead of Linux — mostly to frustrate users and spur them to upgrade to more expensive hardware for a better Windows experience.
That the Booklet ran Windows 7 and offered integration of Nokia’s Ovi services was significant.
II. MeeGo and Intel
You may have heard that MeeGo is pretty much dead. I put the blame for this squarely on Intel; where MeeGo had the chance to quell some of Android’s explosive growth in 2010 the nascent mobile OS was held back by their partner’s agenda — to get Intel chips onto mobile phones.
This realization came to me via some comments I left on Dennis Bournique’s WAP Review.
III. Android Enlightenment
It was an interesting coincidence that I first read this article — about Symbian being stuck in a PDA smartphone rut in an age of Internet phones — on a Google Nexus One. Using Android made me realize just how poorly Symbian compared, especially the stock web browser. Sure it can play Flash video, but when page loads are so incredibly slow what’s the point?
Whereas Symbian is an OS that can connect to the Internet, Android feels more like a portal to it. There’s a big difference.
IV. The Rockstar CEO
I tweeted this to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop Friday morning after hearing the news — perhaps not one of my more mature moments but it fairly accurately represented my feelings at the time.
What’s the cliché of the rockstar CEO? It goes back to the first dot-com boom of the late 1990s, and plays out something like this:
- Company is in trouble, or is seen to be by stockholders. They demand action.
- Random executive is brought in to save the day — specifically because they have no ties whatsoever to anyone or anything prior.
- The new CEO has consultations with key people within organization, mostly as a courtesy.
- CEO makes a wild guess as what’s best for the future of the company, though the consequences won’t affect them in any way.
- The situation (usually) gets worse, CEO shrugs and hops on a private jet to their next gig. Lather, rinse, repeat.
That’s my understanding of it, anyway.
Partnering with Microsoft is as bad a deal for Nokia as the Intel alliance — Espoo gets Windows Phone 7 (instead of MeeGo) while Redmond gets to put WP7 on at least some of the tens of millions of handsets Nokia ships each quarter.
It’s also a slap in the face to the their most ardent supporters, many of whom have begged for Android on at least one device. I see no reason why Nokia couldn’t throw them a bone — release a single device running Android, another with WP7 and see how they both fare. Instead they’ve made their jump from a burning platform seem like an act of desperation.
I’m glad I jumped ship when I did, but my heart goes out to Nokia fans around the world. It’s one thing to jump, but quite another to be pushed from behind.