During an emotional scene in A League Of Their Own, the 1992 movie about a women's professional baseball league, crusty and hard-drinking team manager Tom Hanks screams, "There's no crying in baseball!!"
That's some advice outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt should have heeded yesterday before dispensing some whiny comments about Nokia's decision to choose Microsoft Windows Phone 7 over Google's Android.
Instead, Schmidt—who will soon be stepping down as CEO to make way for Google co-founder Larry Page to assume the top spot—seemed intent on criticizing Nokia's choice of Microsoft and repeating that the door's always open should Nokia at some point in the future decide to renounce its mistake and come home to Google.
At the big Mobile World Congress event taking place in Barcelona, Schmidt disclosed that Google had held extensive discussions with Nokia before the former mobile-phone leader picked Microsoft as the partner that would be best able to revive its fortunes.
"We would have loved that they had chosen Android," Schmidt is quoted as saying in the U.K's Telegraph. "They chose the other guys, that other competitor, Microsoft. I think we are pretty straightforward. . . .
We would like them to adopt Android at some point in the future and that offer remains open. We think Android was a good choice for Nokia. We are sorry they made a different choice."
There's no sorry in business!
Before suggesting what Schmidt should have said, I feel compelled to mention that Schmidt, as the CEO of a company that has had some pretty serious run-ins with privacy standards, policies, and laws, offered an absolutely creepy vision of the Google-driven future in which our gadgets will ensure the following:
That we will be "not lost, never lonely, never bored," Schmidt is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
Eric, you've done some wonderful things for Google and its customers, but promising us that Google's future role will be to ensure that we are "never lonely" and "never bored" is rock-solid proof that it's time for you to turn over the CEO reins to someone else.
There's an almost unfathomable gulf between using devices that can help us connect with friends, play games, and communicate, and living in some dreamy hallucination where we're "never lonely" and "never bored." If that's the future for digital technology, then give me a trusty stone tablet and a chisel.
But back to Schmidt's pouting over Nokia. Consider these observations from Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins in his superb piece this morning called The Phone Wars Aren't Over:
[Nokia] is trying to rescue itself with its smart phone tie-up with Microsoft, and anyone who thinks the game is over should refer to paragraph one. The game isn't over. Chances are good that Apple and Google, today's dominant players, will also miss a beat at some point, in Apple's case perhaps through control freakery, in Google's because of creepiness with personal data. . . .
Nokia once thought it wasn't important to be a player in the U.S. market, with its cacophony of conflicting standards. It's paying for that mistake now. Four years after the iPhone was introduced, Nokia still hasn't delivered a version of its Symbian operating system that holds a candle to its competitors. As one critic recently put it, "Symbian needs more keystrokes to do less than the iPhone and Androids even after a yearlong revamp."
The lesson for the new Nokia and everyone else is an old one: Nobody knows anything, and there's no substitute for messy, wasteful competition as a finder of solutions to problems we didn't even know we needed solutions for. Whether the mobile world will settle into one nonproprietary or many proprietary ecosystems is far from decided.
That's the sort of message Eric Schmidt should have been delivering in Barcelona—the vision for the industry, the flow of time and value and opportunities, the supremacy of competition and customer choice—not some drivel about being sorry that Nokia's led by a bunch of doofusses who don't properly recognize Google's infallibility and omniscience.
In closing, consider this anecdote from Jenkins's column about the chronic shortsightedness that has dogged the mobile-phone business since the 1990s and about how competition—bare-knuckled, innovative, and centered on the customer—will trump the perceived wisdom of industry insiders every time:
Bill Joy, the Sun Microsystems guru, spoke for many when he complained at the time that America suffered from "too much competition," thanks to too many wireless companies promoting too many rival standards. We were ceding wireless leadership to the Europeans and Japanese, he warned.
He was right, in a way. Competition is messy and wasteful, but it also chivvies companies to discover or invent opportunity. And from nowhere, when the mobile broadband opportunity was finally ripe, came two American companies, Apple and Google, to seize most of the value.
Though some resist the knowledge, our "too much competition" is exactly what created the opening for Apple to go to market with a $600-plus, feature-rich, exquisitely engineered smartphone (which AT&T would subsidize for its customers).
Please, Eric: more innovation, less whining.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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