Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dear Nokia We Know You are Confused- Just Don't Try Confusing Us

If there is one thing that has become manifestly clear in the last week with regards to Nokia, it is that the company is confused. There was a change of tone, albeit a slight one on Saturday about the future of Symbian following Friday's NoWin press event announcing its imminent death.

The argument put forward by Steven Elop, the Microsoft shareholder turned Nokia CEO, is that going with Android would have made them just one more OEM with little chance of differentiation...fragmentation anyone? But by choosing Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 he argued, would help create a third force in a two horse race, referring to Apples iOS and Google's Android. I'm assuming all that Elop sees is what he's telling us. 

I know of very few people who think this is a good strategic move except for mostly the app crazed who basically see everything as an app, you know, Farting apps, throwing birds on pig apps and so forth. To such group, joining WP7 will give Nokia the developer base it needs to get quality apps to push to its customers. The rest of die hard Nokia users and fans like myself see nothing but a company that has willingly signed its death warrant. Let's see why shall we?

First of all, the argument that Nokia needs WP7 to be able to take on Android is really funny. Elop contends that Symbian is not fit for that (I agree with that assertion). What I don't get is first the obsession with Android as opposed to user experience. Why is Nokia so suddenly fixated on Android? All his talk on Friday seemed to be about how to outdo Google's OS. Does Elop actually know that Android is not necessarily huge outside of North America? What end are they seeking to achieve by turning the entire strategy of a global company to take on an OS that is popular in a very small geographical area, relatively speaking?

'Code once deploy everywhere" was Nokia's mantra to developers less than six months ago. Then suddenly they turn round to tell the same developers "well you know, we think we lied about Qt and all that we've been saying, Microsoft is the future." Do you really want to be taken seriously? This NoWin move would have been really sensible business-wise if Nokia was in a weak position.

It was not. Nokia was not like Motorola or Sony Ericson pre-Android. The only problem Nokia was facing was overcoming the 'implosion' and internal 'civil war' that characterizes all such huge companies. Symbian was clearly not cut out for highend devices. Nokia saw this and started work on Maemo which it later fused with Intel's Moblin to become MeeGo. MeeGo was not going to be just a mobile OS. It's meant to be an all round utility OS for a myriad of devices-laptops, netbooks, set top boxes, embedded devices, mobile phones and more.

Anybody who has used their last flagship device, the N900, cannot argue that Maemo was a bad OS. It's almost at par with the competition. All that was needed was just a will to build something internally for the high end devices, the only thing Nokia lacks. And what do we see, a Microsoft shareholder gets appointed (?) as the CEO, he sings to all you can think of about Qt and MeeGo, then suddenly turns around to tell us he thinks the're not ready and have no future.
Of course I'd really be naive to think all was rosy in the march to MeeGo. Work needed to be done. But what bugs me is how Nokia can just suddenly relegate it to the backburners in favor of an "ecosystem" from Microsoft. And not only have they relegated MeeGo, but also a large and active community that was forming around what everybody believed to be Nokia's future weapon against Android, iOS and RIM.

I could go on and on. But one thing is certain, Nokia is now a confused company and they are trying to confuse us as well. We hear things like "Symbian is not dying, we have 150m more devices to ship" and so on. Here is a company that ships 20+ million devices each quarter, how long will it take to finish shipping 150m? Then after they ship all the 150m Symbian phones, then what? For how long are they going to keep supporting people who buy those devices? Is there going to be an upgrade path for them to WP7 or they are going to end up with some legacy piece of metal? Haha. It's funny from where I sit. 

I also find it quite funny that Nokia expects to take on Android when it finally ships its WP7 devices (when??). What I'm reading between the lines is that they are assuming both Android and iOS are going to remain stagnant (I'm I wrong??). Well, with the slew of devices being announced at the MWC currently underway in Barcelona, I can confidently see Android sojourning on. Oh, and lets not forget, iPhone 5 is coming out somewhere mid this year. And I also read that Apple is working on a version of the iPhone for the mid part of the smart-phone market. Not sure I need to stress how disruptive it could be for Nokia, seeing that part of the market has been its preserve for a long time.

Nokia has made its choice, and in as much as some of us do not think it's the right choice, we wish them well. I personally will not be in a hurry to buy a new Nokia phone anytime soon, of course should they decide to send me one to prove a point, I'd gladly accept (who wouldn't want a free phone anyway? :-)), but for now, I think my love affair with Nokia is drawing to a close. Android, here I come.



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By Seraaj Muneer with 2 comments

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