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Former Nokia Exec: Windows Phone Strategy Doomed 447

itwbennett writes "Slashdot readers will recall that back in January, Nokia CEO Steven Elop blamed the company's Windows Phone woes on commission-minded salespeople, who pushed phones they thought would actually sell. Now, ex-Nokia exec Tomi Ahonen is calling the Nokia's Windows Phone strategy 'a certain road to death.' He bases this grim assessment on UK market shares from Kantar Worldpanel: 'When Nokia shifted from "the obsolete" Symbian to "the awesome" Windows Phone, Nokia lost a third of its customers! In just one quarter!' Can MeeGo or Tizen save Nokia now?"
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Former Nokia Exec: Windows Phone Strategy Doomed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:42PM (#39428933)

    Nokia's Windows phones continue to tank, meanwhile sales of the 'dead' and most excellent N9 (which was killed to make way for Nokia's WP handsets) are doing well. People are clamouring for Nokia to reconsider its position on the N9. Will Nokia listen and respond in time? Probably not.

  • by gregarican ( 694358 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:44PM (#39428967) Homepage

    Now, ex-Nokia exec Tomi Ahonen, is calling the Nokia's Windows Phone strategy 'a certain road to death.'

    There are two layers of bias. The first is the tone of the submitter. Then there is a the second layer with the ex executive. All we need is a Netcraft meme thrown in for good measure...sigh...

  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:48PM (#39429037) Homepage

    It would have:

    1. Nokia's excellent call quality

    2. Great camera like Nokia's latest 41 megapixel phone with a huge sensor []

    3. Replaceable battery.

    4. Nice, open Linux setup with easy API (like WebOS HTML/Javascript).

    5. WebOS-style UI (especially cards)

    6. Not needing to be tied into an account like Google/Android or iPhone/Apple in order to simply use it.

  • by na1led ( 1030470 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:49PM (#39429047)
    Nokia should stop trying to compete in the Smart Phone market. It's already flooded with too many models and manufacturers. Nokia should go back to what they do best, and make low cost basic cell phones for those people not looking to pay for data plans. Most of the carriers have lots of Android models, but few good basic phones.
  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @12:56PM (#39429151)
    As I'm living in the UK I can state that this is definitely not for lack of marketing. Every shopping centre I have seen has several slick looking panels advertising Lumia and it seems to have made zero effect. People just simply do not want them, and that is probably going to be a great puzzle to Nokia and Microsoft.

    They had a next generation phone with what Meego was actually starting to turn into. Now they're going to need a stop-gap measure, and the only option is Android.
  • Re:First (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:00PM (#39429213)

    I know you're probably saying that as if it's bad, but in reality Google offers effectively no support to manufacturers who make devices for Android. Microsoft offers legal support to all manufacturers, and for Nokia they are offering technical engineering support and cash, which is a pretty good deal compared to what Android is offering.

    So it seems to me Nokia had three choices:

    1. 1. Continue on their own with Symbian/Meego/Maemo or whatever they develop in house and try to carve out a niche for a 4th (or 5th depending on how you count) OS in an already highly competitive market.
    2. 2. Develop for Android and compete with all the other Android manufacturers with no support or partnerships to help in the transition.
    3. 3. Develop for Windows Phone and gain a partner in the OS transition who not only will help in support of your hardware but will work independently to improve the ecosystem

    There are pros and cons for each option, so it's easy to argue all day about which is best. In my opinion they chose the one with the best risk/reward ratio. Option 1 is the riskiest, but with the most reward. Option 2 is the safest, with the smallest reward. Option 3 is risky, but not as risky as going at it alone. Although many here on /. believe Option 3 is doomed to fail, those who use the WP platform see it as a rising star, and obviously Nokia sees the same thing.

  • Re:Android (Score:5, Interesting)

    by semi-extrinsic ( 1997002 ) <> on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:01PM (#39429225)
    More true than you'd think. Early WP7 devices that weren't sold, are being rebranded, loaded with android, and sold in Asia. E.g. the HTC HD7, and probably most other early devices.
  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:01PM (#39429229) Homepage

    The problem Nokia faced is that Symbian was a fading, older platform. It still has fans and users, but that's a market in decline and a sure road to ruin (eventually). Meego was having trouble getting off the ground and wasn't gaining much traction.

    Microsoft shows up with a wad of cash and offers to make them the premier Windows Phone people. If it works, they're set. If it doesn't work, they're on a faster road to ruin.

    But really, if you're already on a road to ruin (which they were), can you afford not to take a risk to try and get off it? I don't think Nokia really had better options aside from becoming yet another Android handset maker. That gamble hasn't worked out for them, which happens sometimes. Shame too, I loved Nokia phones back in the day for how tough they were.

    At this point, their best chance is the unlikely scenario that Windows 8 tablets take off. If they do, people will become more intersted in phones that can run the same things and work with the same UI, so Windows Phone 8 devices will see growth. I'm not willing to bet on it though, and it's a bad place for Nokia to be because their success now depends on things outside their control.

  • Re:First (Score:2, Interesting)

    by __aasehi2499 ( 1959610 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:10PM (#39429357)
    I own a Windows Phone, as well as my wife and a few friends. It's just fun simple and easy. It's like the argument people have about making a desktop a tool, when nobody looks at their desktop, they have applications taking up the whole screen, either in shared space or singly taking it all up. I want to get to my app quickly and with no need for decoration I'm only going to see momentarily. Also, the tiles are able to provide complex information at a glance, with no need to open some apps, till more interaction is required. You reach a point in gui design, where you get tired of the constant progression to replicating the look and feel of a physical desktop at the sacrifice of usability and speed.
  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:12PM (#39429399)

    This is what confused me about Windows Phone 7. Usually Microsoft tries to take an already popular platform or technology, and extends it until they take it over. When Android took off I was sure there would be a Microsoft-created platform that would run on top of Android, and tie in with their Live services, have Office,Outlook, etc... Maybe port .NET compact to Linux to run along-side Dalvik, probably with a significant speed advantage. Basically something cell companies can drop into Android that replaces the Google ecosystem with a Microsoft one. Start out by giving it away for free, then once the take rate picks up, start charging for it.

    Instead of hopping on the Android bandwagon, they did their own thing. Their own completely un-leveragable thing, with no incentive for anyone to adopt it, short of them dumping tons of money into Nokia.

  • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:13PM (#39429413)
    As an investor/stakeholder in the company, what I'm hearing from you is that you plan on positioning Nokia as just another run of the mill Android manufacturer. You say compete on price, I say any random Chinese manufacturer can undercut you. You say compete on name, I say there are already HTC, Samsung, Motorola and other big names already in the ring.

    I've seen a lot of business plans in my day, and my biggest gripe is when people come at me and say "The market size is X, which is huge! So if we only get Y% of X we'll make a ton of money!" It's such an amateur mistake, and the companies that make it have no appreciable competitive advantage over any other company. Nokia, for all its reputation, does not offer any real competitive advantage in the Android marketplace. Whatever brand recognition it does have, will simply be diluted among the other players.

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:13PM (#39429415)

    Breach of fiduciary duty. Elop's move only could benefit Microsoft, and would turn Nokia into a subsidiary of Microsoft, with no ability to compete independently. In other words, the CEO of Nokia abandoned his duty to make decisions that first help Nokia, and instead made decisions to first help Microsoft. Considering that Nokia was a mobile heavyweight until shortly before Elop came on board, I'd say that it's not an entirely unreasonable idea.

  • Re:First (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Naffer ( 720686 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:16PM (#39429467) Journal
    Also, windows phone runs really really well on middling hardware. The Nokia 710 is sold periodically by T-mobile for as little at $250 without a contract, and it is a vastly superior phone to most andriod phones in the same price range. Windows Phone is not a perfect OS but a generation of MS hate has really clouded people's ability to look at their products objectively. And lets be honest, Nokia wasn't going to survive by going the way they were going. They made a bet that they could team up with MS and produce phones people wanted to buy because if they hadn't they'd still be on the RIM path. This is very clearly visible in the bets that Nokia is making on inexpensive phones (Lumia 610) for developing markets. Not everyone wants to pay $800 for a phone off-contract.
  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:30PM (#39429665)
    And why does it do so well? Great hardware. And LOTS of work in software to overcome the shortcomings of Android 2.3.
  • Re:First (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YoopDaDum ( 1998474 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:49PM (#39430015)

    Further, if they go with Android they're probably looking at legal issues with Microsoft and Apple, without any help from Google, just like every other Android manufacturer.

    Do you realize the massive patent portfolio Nokia has? Apple went after them, and if my short term memory is correct it ended up with Apple having to pay Nokia (can't be bothered searching for a reference). If there's one company who do not need any patent protection, it's Nokia. Patents were not a factor in the choice.

    The big factor is that they believed they would have an easier time being a leader in the WP ecosystem, and that it would be a positive differentiation vs. Android. Any money from MS is a nice sweetener, but if it drove their decision then they were nuts: it's only a small part compared to expected sales.

    But in the end, they still have to compete with the Android ecosystem on price and features, and WP is not a positive differentiation at this stage for most. For now, it's a flop and it would take a lot of faith to believe it can get much better quickly. Nokia said they want to refocus on low cost WP phones now, but with all the Chinese and Taiwanese vendors targeting low cost with Android and extremely dynamic with 2G/3G/AP integrated silicon (not all markets care about LTE yet) and a large experience of extremely cost optimized designs, good luck to them. I'd put my money on the East for low cost.

    I'm quite pessimistic on Nokia strategy, and believe they would have had a better time differentiating on an Android base with superior hardware, camera and possibly a hybrid Meego / Dalvik system --- add on top of Android, but still ride a very dynamic ecosystem. But we'll see. Things won't be able to last for too long as it is with some big change happening anyway. As sideliners we can enjoy the drama, but let's have some thoughts for the Nokia employees (not the managers who killed the company with silly internal bickering between Symbian and Meego and poor execution, but the ones who delivered so many great products and innovations in the mobile space).

  • by spasm ( 79260 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:52PM (#39430043) Homepage

    Maybe not, but the Prosecutor General of Finland might. You know, given Nokia is headquartered in Finland and all..

  • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @01:57PM (#39430137)

    One thing that really interests me for potential tightness of integration is the idea of the phone as a portable desktop [] - I think that for many people, a phone that you slap on a docking station on your desk to use like a desktop or even a tablet [] could well be all the computer they need.

    Inevitably, some people will complain about the desktop experience there, but for browsing and email it should be just fine. Microsoft have made their fortune on "good enough" - well, this is easily good enough to serve the needs of the majority of people.

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:31PM (#39430729) Journal

    Actualy posessed of such gall!

    Selling what people want to buy! I can tell you, this does not bode well.

    But perhaps it explains why they sell so many unpromoted and rarely discounted N9 phones compared to heavily promoted and always cheaper Lumias (at least in markets where the N9 is available). I still have not seen anyone actually using or even visibly carrying a Lumia, while I've noticed a fair number of N9s in use. Of course the N9s have only a small fraction of the prevalence of other smartphones. From my unscientific observations made in frequent transits through airports in Europe and North America in the last several months, Android > Symbian[*] > iPhone[*] > Blackberry > N9 > WP7=0.

    [*] I go through through airports in the EU far more than in the US/Canada, which colors my observations. In North American airports, iPhone >> Symbian.

  • Re:First (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:34PM (#39430791)

    This is such an amateur strategy mistake. I see it all the time from investors who think that they know how to run a business.

    Something different (e.g. Windows Mobile OS) does not equal a competitive advantage automatically. You need to ask if there are actually any advantages to that something different. And the reality in this case is... no it doesn't. And then you need to factor in that the apps ecosystem is an area dominated by the network effect. The bigger the network of phones using the OS, the bigger the apps ecosystem. And apps are the biggest driver of smartphone purchases at the moment.

    So, in effect, you've sacrificed the benefits of a big apps ecosystem to go with something different that provides no competitive advantage. In other words, you're dead on arrival.

  • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:07PM (#39431435)

    Theres a good article at Businessweek [] about Elop and the direction change.

    The article states they negotiated for Android, but got no quarter from Google on special access to Android or direction on features. They didn't want Nokia to be Just Another Android Vendor. Whether that's false pride that will cause them to disappear, or a stroke of genius that allows them to be different, though much smaller, only time will tell. MS did throw some cash at them, this seems to be a partnership of weakness, where both sides have a weak hand and need each other to succeed. I kind of want Windows Phone to survive - it's an interesting new OS, one I'm sure I'll never own a device that runs it. But it will never succeed in any stretch.

    Of course you could argue that any moves toward Android were just cover for a long term strategy with MS Windows Phone.

  • by sgt101 ( 120604 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:19PM (#39431649)

    Watch Steve Job's come back key note : MS supported Apple because they saw them as an important eco-system player. This is what they are doing with Nokia now. Without a successful Nokia MS is looking at Apple and Google/Motorola carving up the market. They are not prepared to allow that.

  • by baka_toroi ( 1194359 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @04:18PM (#39432569) Journal
    About iPods: the first generation wasn't a raving success. Only when it added USB compatibility in 2003 (3rd gen) it was successful, so the comment is spot on. Take a look at sales: []

    About iPhones: that's just a guess, predictions fail. When it comes to Nokia, we're not guessing: we know.

    About iPads: they're actually the worst of both worlds... for a Slashdotee (?). Are they saying it wasn't to be successful?

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.