Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
4/26/2012
09:41 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
50%
50%

Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone

Former Nokia senior executive says CEO has wrecked the company with his choice to adopt Windows Phone.

Nokia is in terrible trouble, and Lee Williams, Nokia's former SVP of Series 60 software, blames it all on CEO Stephen Elop. The problem, according to Williams, is that the company is bleeding cash, executive talent, and market share at a frightening pace. In a lengthy and far-ranging interview with CNET U.K., Williams vents about Nokia's downward spiral and casts aspersions aplenty at the Finnish firm's leadership.

In a nutshell, here are the problems, as Williams sees them:

No Vision. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has no long-term vision for the company. "Elop hasn't delivered a roadmap. There's no overarching vision for this company. That to me is akin to stepping completely out of the leadership role and running behind the bus now... Before Elop, Nokia would never give up that leadership position and role in the marketplace, [and] would always talk about the future."

[ For more on Nokia's challenges, see Nokia's Lumia 'Not Good Enough' Say Carriers. ]

Ditching Symbian was a bad idea. Symbian was Nokia's bread and butter for a decade or more and is still among the top smartphone platforms in the world as far as installed bases go. Williams believes that Nokia should have continued developing and selling Symbian to maintain its economic footing.

"[Symbian] was Nokia. That was Nokia's brand, we knew we could count on that [to generate handset sales,"] notes Williams. Without Symbian to keep it afloat, Nokia's financial free-fall is no big surprise. (Never mind the fact that Symbian had become a terrible, bloated, fussy OS over the years. It has become obsolete for a reason.)

Adopting Windows Phone was a bad idea. While Williams gives some credit to Microsoft's platform, he believes Nokia's decision to use it as its sole smartphone platform moving forward was the wrong thing to do.

"I did not see a good reason to change course so frantically," he said to CNET. "I don't think Nokia was going in the wrong direction with some of the things it was doing--it was simply executing poorly before Elop got there and they weren't giving it enough time. It might have made sense to introduce a product or two into the portfolio based on Windows Phone. What I do not think they should have done is pretend it is a one-horse race, and that one software system is all you need."

Nokia failed to execute even with Lumia. Sure, Nokia may have sold about one million or so Lumia smartphones to date, but they have major shortcomings that will eventually bite Nokia in the behind.

"Now they have a Windows Phone product, and the differentiators are nonexistent, the battery life is orders of magnitude behind their other products, and the best imaging or camera features are not able to be fully realized leveraging the Windows Phone code. These products will have some success in the marketplace, but not at the scale or level needed. They can fix some of these things over time and with substantial ecosystem support, but the marketplace is a harsh mistress. I don't think they have that kind of time."

Android won't save Nokia, either. Last week, PCMag's John C. Dvorak ran an interesting piece foretelling Nokia's doom if it doesn't drop Windows Phone right away and switch to Google's Android platform for its smartphones. Boy, does Williams disagree with that position.

"Android is a less capable offering than a few options that still exist within Nokia," said Williams. "It's certainly not what I would refer to as an open system. More than that, I think that Nokia has little opportunity to differentiate here in the near term, and the Android platform is so highly fragmented that returns on investment become difficult at best for an ecosystem participant."

Losing Finnish employees is a bad idea. Williams also bemoans the heavy changes within Nokia's leadership ranks. Finns are leaving in epic proportions and are being replaced with North Americans. This is a problem, says Williams, because "Nokia is Finland, and Finland is Nokia."

I can't disagree with this sentiment. One thing I've noted about Nokia's recent press conferences is that Finns never take the stage any more. It's always Americans or British Nokia employees who make the announcements. Nokia is, at its core, a Finnish company, and the penetration of the top ranks with non-Finns isn't the best thing for the company.

Here's the salt lick, caveat, etc. Williams does make some interesting points in his diatribe, but from my perspective he comes off as a jaded ex-employee. The man ran the company's Symbian software division for nearly four years, so what he sees is his baby being dragged out back and shot in the head. It's hard not to feel bitter about such a thing.

Williams in particular seems to believe that devices such as the Meego-powered N9 prove that Nokia can get things right. Perhaps. The N9 was a solid device with decent software, but it took Nokia three or more years to get that software to market--and it's still far from perfect. The usability factor of Meego is nowhere near what it is with Android, iOS, or Windows Phone.

The bottom line is this: Yes, Nokia has made some mistakes and is in a wee bit of trouble. Things are bleak, but not as bleak as some former employees might suggest. It is entirely possible that Nokia can--with Windows Phone--eventually turn itself around. It won't be easy, but it's not an unattainable goal.

See the future of business technology at Interop Las Vegas, May 6-10. It's the best place to learn how cloud computing, mobile, video, virtualization, and other key technologies work together to drive business. Register today with priority code CPQCNL07 to get a free Expo Pass or to save 25% on Flex and Conference passes..

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
EVVJSK
50%
50%
EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/1/2012 | 5:13:53 PM
re: Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone
You and I are in agreement. Out the outset, I knew that Symbian faithful would be alienated by Windows Phone OS (as much as by Elop as anything), much as many are by iOS. With the Elop factor, I gave Nokia as much time as I felt I could and then chose the best combination of cost, performance, features, and supportability I could find in an Android phone (Galaxy Nexus) and I am happy. Same OS as is on my recently update Acer Iconia A500 (ICS 4.0.3) so now I have even less of a learning curve. Microsoft is at least 6 months away from Windows 8 (Phone or Tablet or PC) and likely to miss the big holiday shopping season (like they pretty much did last year) if they are not careful. I think Microsoft should focus hard on Windows 8 on Laptops (Ultrabook type devices aggressively priced) to do well in a market in which they can compete.
EVVJSK
50%
50%
EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 2:03:29 PM
re: Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone
I just left an Nokia S60 3rd FP1 E71 phone for an Android Galaxy Nexus (got new phone last night). The E71 was still doing 80% of what I wanted it to do (and what WP does). I am going to be happy with the New Android with Android 4.0, but to say the E71 (an S60 phone) was not good is simply untrue. The new Symbian S^3 variants (Belle etc...) are better and more capable. Meego is also showing people a lot of possibility. When a Whole Hog approach to Windows Phone was announced by Nokia (with MS as a partner) I said, I will just have to wait and see. That was about a year ago and while the E7 and N9 phones show promise, I kept waiting to see Nokia's commitment to those phones and the platforms. About last fall, I could see that neither of those was really going to get what they needed to succeed as Windows Phone was the new darling. I reviewed and watched nearly everything about Nokia's Windows Phone platform/Strategy waiting for a Home run. Lumia 900 just came out and while it is decent, the lack of announcement about Windows Phone 8 for it along with other reasons made the decision to go with GNexus an easy one for me.

Regarding Mr.Williams and S60, I don't think he was saying that S60 could take them further down the road at this stage, but I agree 100% with ""I did not see a good reason to change course so frantically," If Windows Phone would have been announced and then allowed to compete within Nokia (and Nokia's dependenc on it to evolve as Windows Phone evolved, I don't believe Nokia would be in as bad a position as it is now). Unfortunately part of Nokia's problems was trying to take Symbian Open Source 3 or so years ago. It took up too much time and resources and the Open Source community was focused on Linux and then Android. Elop came in and new Windows and Microsoft. I don't think he knew how to make an underperforming company perform again, he only knew Micrososft and slash and burn. Nokia and Microsoft has until the Christmas Holiday season to make a splash with a Windows Phone 8 smartphone. Failure to do that will likely mean they have left this effort until it is too late. Nokia could still resurrect Meego or Symbian to have some independence, but I don't know that Elop will let them. You are entitled to your opinion, but there are those out there who agree with a significant portion of what Mr. Williams has said.
ricegf
50%
50%
ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
4/27/2012 | 10:12:45 AM
re: Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone
"The big mistake Elop made was underestimated how fast carriers and consumers would jump ship..."

Google "Osborne Effect". Many of us quite accurately predicted how fast Nokia would fall once Mr. Elop dissed his cash cow while promising a much better product in 12 long months, as the curve is well-understood. That Mr. Elop didn't know this proves the author's point - he's simply not competent to run Nokia.

And while Windows Phone is arguably a better product than Symbian, it's simply not competitive with Android and iPhone in the mid- to high-end market due to being intentionally limited by Microsoft, e.g., to a low-res screen and single-core CPU. And Nokia is at Microsoft's mercy to remedy these shortcomings - yet Nokia under Elop has bet the farm, while Microsoft makes more profit from each Android sold than each WinPhone. See the problem yet?

And Microsoft has now decided on ANOTHER OS reboot, to a new and heavier kernel that's incompatible with existing WinPhones being sold *this year*. For Nokia, it's the Symbian disaster all over again - "wanna buy a phone that will be obsolete in 6 months?" "Uh, no thanks - ooh, shiny iPhone! Look at all the Droids!"

A better strategy would have been to *add* Android to the current product lines, while targeting cross-compatibility. Promote Symbian running Qt at the low end, Android with Qt extensions in the mid-range, and MeeGo running Qt with a Dalvik engine to run Android apps at the high end. This is a compelling story, provides a long-term support story for Symbian and MeeGo fans while competing in the 50% of the market that is Android rather than the 1% that is WinPhone. And you keep your developers - *all* of your smartphones run Qt, which Nokia had extensively promoted - while adding the huge Android ecosystem to your mid- to high-end phones (see Amazon Prime for a taste of how a well-executed strategy may have looked, then check Amazon's latest earnings report).

Just saying. But if you check Nokia's stock price over the past 18 months, I don't think I'm alone.
cheeser
50%
50%
cheeser,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2012 | 6:41:18 AM
re: Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone
Are you kidding me? Symbian/S60? The background is that the Nokia board was told every year that symbian could evolve and be competitive but it couldnt and didnt. Do you think any Sr Symbian or S60 exec would stand up in front of the board and tell them the truth that their architecture wasn't going to be competitive in the modern world? of course not, they went in and told them that they need $Xmillion and X amount of time and it will be awesome - and the board believed them.

I dare anyone who has used in iphone or android device to spend a day with a S60 device (I used them for years). they should have done the MS deal 2 years earlier but the board somehow believed that symbian would turn the corner, then it was meego which was going to be the savior but it took twice as long as it should have. Mr williams has his head in the sand like many of the Nokia execs have for years. most didnt even spend the time to use an iphone to even understand what they were up against.

OPK's failure was believing his software execs - guys like Williams.

The big mistake Elop made was underestimated how fast carriers and consumers would jump ship once he said they would move completely to Windows. He clearly didn't realize how fast revenues would fall.

But make no mistake, Symbian was clearly not a long term answer - it's short comings are ultimately the reason Nokia is in this mess - along with execs like Williams unwillingness to admit they had an inferior product
CIO
50%
50%
CIO,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/26/2012 | 7:29:43 PM
re: Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone
Samsung is working with Meego / Tizen after Nokia dropped it. Watch Samsung make a success of it.
Mr.Gooz
50%
50%
Mr.Gooz,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/26/2012 | 5:00:06 PM
re: Former Nokia Exec Slams Elop And Windows Phone
Hopefully Mr. Williams is running his own company now... I you're impacted by a cut off, talking bad about your old boss is talking bad about yourself.
This article isn't helping Mr. Williams either.
Only time will show if Nokia's (Elop) decision was right or wrong.
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 7, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program!
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.