Just over a year ago, Nokia was doomed.
I think people are forgetting this.
Let’s remember just how bad it was: The management was broadly clueless. Many of the company’s most talented employees could see the problems facing the company but were powerless to do anything about it. The market had been rightly hammering Nokia for a long time and the death spiral was quickly approaching. Remember the abomination that was the Nokia N97? Remember the Western reaction to the Nokia N8? The company had dug it’s own grave and the market was crucifying them. All this despite the fact the company was shipping millions of handsets a day. I remember clearly just how bad things were. Silicon Valley and the collective media world have moved way beyond frustration, passed ‘laughing stock’ stage and into ‘delete’ stage. Just over a year ago, the wider Valley community was actively working to kill Nokia, to prevent them from doing anything. I remember, for example, one leading developer who simply refused to develop for the platform. The CEO wouldn’t take any money from Nokia. He wouldn’t license the API. He wouldn’t let them do anything. He actually told me didn’t think the company deserved to live. (I’m paraphrasing because there were a lot more expletives).
Anyone who thinks Nokia’s current strategy isn’t working needs to take a step back.
There was no choice. Remember the ridicule. Remember the downright disbelief of the market — they couldn’t understand why Nokia couldn’t deliver anything remotely touching the iPhone. Or why they couldn’t do it on time. And make it look decent. And function without asking you stupid questions from yesteryear like “are you sure you want to connect to the internet”.
Of course we all knew Nokia was capable. It just wasn’t able to deliver at that point.
And time was running out.
Investors were getting really shirty.
I was doing presentation after presentation to boardrooms filled with institutional investors trying to wrap their minds around why Nokia’s N97 was apparently their best work (in comparison to the sensational handsets at the time — Android/iOS).
The market was getting so frustrated that all sorts of dire warnings, downgrade threats and whatnot began to fill the airwaves.
The market demanded sweeping change. There was no alternative.
Well, actually, there was.
Nokia had two choices:
1. Swap to Android or Windows
It would have been a slow, painful death. The market simply wasn’t going to accept anything other than Choice #1 or death.
The company got itself into the position of having zero alternatives. It brought itself to the brink.
A year has passed now. The company’s managed to change strategy, get some handsets out, modify it’s culture and start again.
But let’s be clear: The fact the company is still actually trading is a bonus. Things were THAT bad last year. The company wasn’t actually dead but the wall was rapidly approaching at 500mph.
I think it’s too early to call for a change of strategy.
I’d very much welcome Nokia putting a lot of money into a next-next generation smartphone operating system.
But right now I’d like them to continue working toward make a success of Windows Phone and keep evolving their pitch.
This time last year, many of us didn’t even think the company would have delivered a single Windows Phone handset. The prospect of actually having Nokia Windows Phones in the hands of a few million folk within 14 months was quite a pipe dream!
So I was expecting Nokia to take a massive hit in revenue for quite a while. I think everybody was. It was the logical conclusion of their announcement. They were going to take a huge hit anyway. I was expecting 2011 to be a wipeout, 2012 to be the mostly same (if they event got a handset out to market) and perhaps a bit of good news by 2013.
I see good news from Nokia all the time.
The manner in which they reacted to the Lumia 900 bug was simply brilliant. Many have described it as a public relations coup. I agree. (Read: BGR: “Nokia appeases angry mob, gains life-long loyalists“). The lightning fast reaction — in a critical marketplace for the company — illustrates to me that there’s some really smart folk in control.
At MWC the Nokia teams were energised, focused, utterly delighted to show off their wares. If the people I was watching dancing along to the Lumia music every few minutes are just a little bit representative of the company’s wider corporate culture, that can only be good news.
But we can’t expect miracles overnight. We shouldn’t. Come 2013 and 2014 though, expectations will be high.
We’ll need to get the next version of Windows Phone out the door I think before we begin to see some mind-blowing stuff from Nokia.
Changing strategy to favour Symbian or MeeGo will only put the company back another year or so. For those really keen to see MeeGo (or it’s descendants) triumph over the market, I think there’s an opportunity there. I’d love to see Nokia change the dominant mobile paradigm once more. However right now the company needs to play the game with Windows Phone.
So, steady as she goes. Keep up the energy, keep up the innovation, let’s see what you can do Nokia.