back to article Stephen Elop and the fall of Nokia revisited

The first English translation of Operation Elop, an examination by Finnish journalists into the final years of Nokia phones, has reignited debate about the fate of what was Europe's largest and most admired technology company. The translation comes three years after the book was published in Finland, but it gives English- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

    From my happy experience of mid to low price Chinese phones, I think you'd find that the Chinese countryside was actually enjoying some pretty good products at prices people in the UK wouldn't believe.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

      Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

      In my local Carphone Warehouse you'd be spoilt for choice.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

        It's amazing where they find this junk, but then phone networks still seem to think that pushing their "own" shockingly customed, out of date from the start devices and abandoning them even faster that Samsung is a good idea.

        As for there not being any decend low cost mobiles, the author seems to have forgotten about Motorola who produced a lot of very good, low cost mobiles. The cameras were generally the weak point but for many users who really didn't care about the camera, occasional daylight snaps aside, they were more than adequate.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

          Nick Ryan,

          The Motorolas were later.

          When I bought my Windows Phone 7 Lumia 710, the cheapest Android phones were things like the HTC Wildfire - at about £150. Which they were still selling on Android 2.2 18 months after it came out, despite the fact that Android was on 2.3. I had a work Wildfire and it was OK, but sometimes laggy and crashed every so often.

          I bought the Lumia to replace the Wildfire for a year, then we got iPhone 5s (our batch mostly failed within 2 years, including 2 replacements). My next work phone was a Lumia 730, which I still have 21/2 years later.

          I think when I got that, the Motorola (E / M, can't remember?) had been out a few months. The first of the good cheap Moto's, at £150. My Lumia was £120. So I'd say you could get good cheap Droids from about 3 years ago.

          1. ThomH

            Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

            I spent about six months using a Nokia Lumia 635; I purchased it in 2014 on some sort of promotion for around $50 rather than the equivalently-discounted Androids because the crapware AT&T were preloading made the Androids a lot less attractive. Microsoft always required that anything installed by a third party be removable and that the official software remain available. So instead of the AT&T-brand browser, file storage, music player, etc, being on my phone *instead* of Google's, they were there *as well as* Microsoft's.

            And they weren't there for long.

            It was a pretty good handset for ordinary phone tasks; the camera was obviously a couple of years behind but that's about all that was obviously slightly backwards. It probably helps that I'm not much of an app user nowadays.

            So I'd agree with the idea that Windows Phones were better value, not that long ago.

          2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

            @I ain't Spartacus

            I could have sworn that there was more of an overlap, but having looked the Lumia 710 came out about a year before the first Moto G phones. Luckily I guess I wasn't looking for a phone at that time!

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Today you'd have to go into the Chinese countryside to find a bad Android.

              Ah, it was the Moto G. Thanks. My friend had one, it was a nice phone.

    2. asdf

      Sorry to thread jack

      Have to say that article ended with a bang. Maybe disagree with the decision but that is the best pants pissing quote I have heard from the C suite.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Big Brother

    Lack of slurp potential?

    Did Symbian and Meego slurp data?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lack of slurp potential?

      With Symbian every AP could be configured to ask you to give permission for whatever app it is to connect to the net and you could call up a list of apps with open connections and close them if you wanted. No slurp potential there.

    2. James 47

      Re: Lack of slurp potential?

      Symbian's user-land apps were pretty restricted. Networks, however could pretty much give their own apps all the permissions in the world. So, they would have had to develop their own data-slurping advertising SDKs.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

    So what? Many people have to make choices between their professional and personal life, and are not compensated at all.

    I lost my fiancé when a project required more time and a big effort, and I had to cancel an important planned holiday with her. The company future depended on that project and if it had failed, probably I would have to look for another job. And being one of the tech lead, the failure would have been also a personal failure.

    I hoped she could understand, she didn't. I kept my job at least, but nobody gave me a compensation for the loss in my private life.

    And I guess Elop was not in so dire choice - probably it had to choose about many $$$$$ in Finland or little fewer $$$$ where he was.

    It looks like when Apotheker was fired, and they give him a compensation because after its utterly disastrous tenure at HP he would have not probably got another CEO role - poor lad, let's compensate incompetency?

    Really, it looks CEOs live in a different world made of gold and unicorns, not only they make tons of money but they also need to get more for any trouble they encounter in their lives, the same trouble common people face every day without the advantages, and with no compensations?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Funny that

      Sorry to hear that, dude.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Funny that

        So what? Never heard anyone say on their death bed "I wish I worked harder at work"

    2. SquidEmperor

      Lesson Learnt

      That sucks - and I'm sorry to hear it.

      We all have to make our own decisions re: life/work balance and often it's difficult to make the right call on each occasion. None the less I'd remind all of this critical statement:

      "What do you get from a lifetime of hard work?......a lifetime of hard work"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lesson Learnt

        Sometimes, you have little choice - I didn't pass over a promotion simply, and it wasn't hard work for the sake of it.

        The company was a startup - small but skilled team, and that was the first delivery of its main product. The customer was a F1 team (big reference, of course). And my role was critical. I felt I was also responsible for my team as well.

        I was laid off already a few years earlier, when that previous company hired an axman from IBM who decided to cut expenses by cutting the most expensive - and skilled - developers (it turned against them, but that's another story) - and again, no compensations.

        I found the new job - which I liked a lot - within a few months (did some consultancy and teaching meanwhile), but events like that leave a sour taste, and you don't want to start again from scratch every time (I don't work in Silicon Valley), especially when you had big plans for your future.

        What is bitterly ironic, is that had the project failed, the company gone bankrupt, and I lost the job and my income, the outcome would have been the same, I'm afraid.

        Probably, it was a lose-lose situation. That's life, and it happens. Just, sorry, I can't hear a poor CEO needs to be compensated for such events as well. Maybe the same CEOs who ask their underlings to work 60-80 hour a week and weekends just to improve their bonuses, menacing offshoring or lay offs otherwise.

        Were Nokia employees compensated the same way when Nokia was sold and the terminated?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lesson Learnt

          “What is bitterly ironic, is that had the project failed, the company gone bankrupt, and I lost the job and my income, the outcome would have been the same, I'm afraid.”

          Exactly that, and the reason that you made the right decision. Life is not about money, but modern life without money is not possible, unless both partners are willing to sacrifice or live alternative lifestyles. Life for non-CEOs is tough.

          Many CEOs have it tough too, not all of them work for large corporations, earn fortunes, and their lives can be ruined too...speaking from personal experience.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Many CEOs have it tough too"

            I wasn't talking about the many smaller companies owner, directors, executive and administrators who are usually on the same boat of their employees.

            It was about the rarefied world of large companies CEOs - like Elop - who ask for compensations for everything, from signing bonus to relocation ones to big bonuses to golden parachutes, each in the millions range.

            Up to the point that ensuring a profitable business for the company for years becomes less important - you can make more money by leaving early and jumping from company to company, and never be accountable for what you really did at each.

            It happened, for example, in Telecom Italia - the CEO had a contract that stated if he had to leave earlier, they had to pay a an exit bonus based on the worked years bonus. He cunningly achieved profits in his first year he couldn't match the remaining ones, and then left.

            Of course, you need accomplices to obtain such conditions and benefits, and cover your butts, but as long as that's a small "community" where each member take advantage of the situation, it's not hard to find them.

            I have no issue in rewarding skills and responsibilities, but when people get handsomely paid just to move their butts from one comfortable leather chair to another, it's clear the system has big issues.

            Was Elop really interested in the Nokia telephone business, or was just preparing his next hop?

            That while employee wages are mostly stagnant, and purchasing power often inferior of that of decades ago. But underlings can make debits, if they need money, so the upper echelon will also reap the benefits of interests paid by the lower one.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lesson Learnt

          one months pay for each year worked, plus bonus's and statutory redundancy etc plus funds to start a business if that way inclined

    3. Steve Channell

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Nokia didn’t cost his marriage, incompetent planning and execution cost his marriage. This was the fella that pretended he could commute from Seattle to Finland as part time CEO, part time family man... and failed at both.

      The failure of Nokia however is not primarily down to Elop, but an indication that Nokia got-lucky when their 2G phone design lasted all day when Motorola needed spare batteries. Nobody (including Nokia) had realised that a power-saving feature designed for poor Cell coverage in Finland could help in urban areas. When your corporate strategy is ‘get lucky’ it is no wonder political in-fighting wins out.

      Pity for poor Nokia is misplaced; they were but a walk-on-part in Steven Sinofsky’s car-crash of Windows 8 “hack off people’s toes, to make them buy our crutches”. WP7 was a great phone, with a couple of limitations {protected memory, single-core} that the NT kernel could fix... turns out, neither were really needed - Apple uses hardware compartments to hack the problem.

      1. Doug 3

        Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

        No, the collapse of Nokia happened too slowly since Elop had to have the plan to deliver Nokia to Microsoft.. It just took longer than they planned and so the result was less time at home, etc, etc.

        If there was any other motivation for Elop than there was a complete and utter failure in the Nokia board to understand who they were hiring to run the company. I mean you don't publicly announce your OS being shipped on millions of phones each day is being replaced with incompatible software and OS. A department store manager knows that sales will plummet immediately. You don't pick that new OS to be one with single digit market share even after the company making the OS has spent billions marketing it. And you don't say that using the most dominant OS, which is open source and free, is no choice because nobody can make money competing when there were dozens of companies making profits doing just that.

        You don't do those things. That is unless you want to harm the company enough to make it a tasty choice for Microsoft to purchase. And BTW, people were saying this since day one of his hiring at Nokia.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

          Sounds like you're better off without her tbh

    4. Lars Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Elop did not bring his wife, family (if he had a family) to Finland in the first place, so did he leave his wife or did she leave him. Not bringing his family with him gave the impression that his aim at Nokia was a short time effort like all his earlier efforts. He did not impress at any time*, either because he did not have it or because he had no intention to deliver had he had it, or the horse was the wrong horse.

      But let's not forget that it was the board who employed him, companies rot from the head, but I suppose they, unless bought, believed they did the right thing.

      But what the heck, lets read the book, and who has ever survived the touch of Microsoft. (Sendo anyone)

      Still Nokia, as Nokia Networks, is alive and in 2017 employed approximately 102,000 people across over 100 countries, did business in more than 130 countries, and reported annual revenues of around €23 billion.

      *foot in mouth, with that "burning platform".

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Any job that costs you a significant other means either your job or your choice in partners sucks. Am assuming of course not banging the secretary in which case you suck.

    6. veti Silver badge

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      It's sad that you lost your relationship - but you were compensated, you got the money and the glory you'd been promised. That was your choice. You could have chosen to walk away from the job and the project instead; but you stuck with them. That was your choice, and don't pretend you didn't make it.

      Tough break. But don't pretend that Elop's was less tough: arguably more so, because "marriage" implies a significantly deeper level of personal commitment than mere "engagement".

      Elop didn't get all those millions as "compensation" for losing his marriage: it was the reward he'd been promised, and the marriage couldn't survive the process of earning it. He made a choice, just like you; the personal outcome was the same; and he was "rewarded" just like you. The difference is that in his case, the gains of staying in the job were a lot bigger.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You could have chosen to walk away from the job"

        Sure - and while unemployed what could I have done? Good jobs don't grow on trees. Would you also hire people who when the game gets hard, quit? I encountered some of them, usually people selling skills they don't have, and as soon as they can't cover any longer, quit suddenly, rinse, and repeat.

        Walk away, while you still have bills and loans to pay - and everything else.

        Sure, if I had a couple of millions in an exit bonus (plus the signing bonus plus the relocation bonus) I could have done it without issues....

        I wasn't looking for glory, but yes, sometimes I'm also proud of my achievements and don't like failures. Nor I got more money just because that product delivery succeeded.

        When I'm in charge of other people, I also feel a responsibility for them and their families - a whole team suddenly unemployed is not something I would be proud of. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

        Sure, I made myself the choice it looked the more sensible to ensure a future. Moreover it was just a temporary situation - successive sales and deliveries were far more simple and didn't require anything like that. I've never been someone who sacrifices anything to a job - but I prefer to have a job that could pay for my family and its futures without issues.

        Just, someone gives everything for granted.

        It was the article stating that Elop's compensation was right because he divorced also.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Elop's time at Nokia cost him his marriage, don't forget."

      Are the 2 downvotes from ex-Ceo’s. Lol

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    I've dumped lucrative roles to put my family first more than a couple of times.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Everyone has their own priorities. For some, it's climbing to the top of the tree regardless of cost. For others, it's about enjoying life.

      I generally enjoy my job, and it allows me to spend time doing my own thing (hobbies, spending time with other half, etc..)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Everyone has their own priorities."

        Just, it's not always black or white - there are many shades of gray, and not of the type of the popular book. Many choices are not so easy.

        Try to speak to people who lost their job, and then their family also because of that - because someone else royally screwed up. To some of them, you maybe can't even speak to any longer, because they killed themselves. Try to look your wife into her eyes, and confess her there are no money to pay the rent, and having to borrow from relatives or friends.

        Try to visit charities hosting divorced people who lost everything, even an house to live in.

        Sometimes, the priority is not to climb a tree or a ladder, but not having to descend it towards hell.

        On the other hands, there are people who like to piggyback others work, and reap the benefits created by those who keep the boat afloat.

        It's no surprise Dilbert has a character like Wally - they are quite common. It's easy to pontificate when you risk nothing.

    2. Andrew Moore

      Likewise- it came down to the decision, did I want to spend all my time making money for other people, or did I want to spend some of that time with my family. Family won.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    He's responsible for Flash as well?!

    That's like being responsible for both the Nazi death camps AND the Nanking massacre!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

      No, he wasn't responsible for Flash itself. Flash became a the goto framework for interaction on websites and, hence, a money spinner for Macromedia. This in turn led Adobe to buy Macromedia and subsequently improve the video codec, which helped make YouTube popular and eventually end the video codec wars. It also served as the template for a lot of the later development of HTML 5.

      Flash was popular as a development environment for designers and Macromedia did the right thing in developing it for them. That the problems of the runtime would come back to haunt it has as much to do with its success as anything else: it was popular then ubiquitous long before it was a target. Nowadays it is an increasing irrelevancy, largely due to the availability of more secure, native alternatives.

      Credit where credit's due: Flash inspired a lot of people to develop "for the internet". Adobe has also done a reasonable job in maintaining Flash despite the many security flaws: reasonable in terms of having a plan for regular updates to exploits. Maybe they could have open-sourced the runtime but there might have been reasons against this such as containing licensed code. But by the time Google got behind the HTML 5 ball it was probably too late.

      I think I removed Flash from my machines in 2016 but it lives on in Chrome and IE because for some things there still aren't better alternatives.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

        This in turn led Adobe to buy Macromedia

        And who do you think put Macromedia up for sale to Adobe in the first place and then hopped across to Adobe after the sale was completed?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

          And who do you think put Macromedia up for sale to Adobe in the first place?

          The owners?

          I'm not a cheerleader for Elop and I thought at the time he made the wrong call at Nokia but at the same time I don't think he was responsible for all its ills (he was hired because the company was already in a mess) nor for Flash's many bugs.

          In the end he got a great deal for the owners in the sale of the handset business to Microsoft. Don't blame him for the fucked up capitalism that makes those kind of deals make sense. But if you want to look for a real train wreck compare what he did with Nokia to what Carly Fiorina did with Compaq, DEC and HP.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

            At the time Nokia's mobile division was sold to MS, the parent company was calling all the shots.

            After Elop returned to MS and was later fired, he went to Telstra. Have a look what he did there:

            Telstra writes off last $273 million in Silicon Valley tech start-up Ooyala

            He may not be as bad as Carly but he's trying hard to get there.

    2. Christian Berger

      Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

      Kinda like Thomas Midgley:

      He invented leaded petrol and Freon.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: He's responsible for Flash as well?!

        He invented leaded petrol and Freon.

        True, and a lovely account of him in Bill Byrson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

        Course, it has since turned out that unleaded petrol has problems of its own: CH3

  6. Bob Vistakin

    Tut tut tut

    Seems there was no space to mention Elop being microsoft's 8th largest individual shareholder when he trojaned his way into the Nokia CEO slot, so I'll helpfully mention it now.

    1. sorry, what?

      Re: Tut tut tut

      Recycling an old comment, did you know that Elop backwards spells "I shafted Nokia"? Either that or "I do plumbing". And I don't think he does the latter, at least not as a job.

      As soon as he arrived we knew it would be Win D'ohs Phoney and nothing else. Disaster written all over the appointment. (I haven't read the book but I witnessed aspects of this "from the inside".)

  7. Ralph76

    Business Market Niche not spotted?

    I was always amazed that a decent work device was not released, and allowed Apple to keep that role. Apple phones are not really designed for work based use, especially with the majority being used in a MS windows Domain based environment. It is a device that sys-admins struggle to manage correctly - although MDM is changing that now.

    If Nokia had managed to provide a device that is domain aware, and managed via Group policy (with the help of Microsoft) and the historic reputation of how solid their hardware is. Coupled with the lack of data slurping, I could see Nokia carving a niche out for themselves that the others just cannot touch.

    Alas, it didn't go that way, I am still waiting for a device to fill that role and make my job a lot easier, especially as GDPR looms...

    1. jaywin

      Re: Business Market Niche not spotted?

      They tried, and probably would have succeeded, if MS hadn't taken a torpedo to each version of WP and restarted from scratch every couple of years. WP7 was a solid OS which just needed a bit more work to flesh out the features. WP8 ended up as a fairly solid OS which just needed a bit more work to flesh out the features. W10 (on mobile), well... no comment.

    2. Christian Berger

      They would have needed x86 emulation for that

      As win32 is kinda the core value of the Windows plattform.

      If I was working at Microsoft I'd start a program to develop some "RDP-like" solution which cuts up up the GUI around its elements and re-positions it to work with mobile devices. (Automatic or guided by some additional files)

      This would bring most Windows software (which is legacy anyhow) to mobile devices without the hassle of having unusable interfaces.

      1. James Anderson

        Re: They would have needed x86 emulation for that

        How would you fit the 40 plus icons on the ribbon on to a 2 x 3 inch screen?

        1. Christian Berger

          Re: They would have needed x86 emulation for that

          "How would you fit the 40 plus icons on the ribbon on to a 2 x 3 inch screen?"

          I'd say that 90% of the programs used in companies today predates that ribbon nonsense by one or two decades. Remember, the golden age for Windows GUI software was in the 1990s and early 2000s. After that people made web applications whenever possible.

      2. JoJ

        Re: They would have needed x86 emulation for that

        How about you just serialise the GUI APIs and I am sure that local rendering can be made to follow some more appropriate rules for the device screen.

    3. Blotto Silver badge

      Re: Business Market Niche not spotted?


      there was this Canadian company called Research In Motion who owned a brand called BlackBerry that made corporate focussed mobile messaging and phoning devices, coupled with an Enterprise Server. At a time when carriers charged for text messages BlackBerry's with BES could send messages between each other for free as well as being able to send and receive corporate emails. The best thing was that all comms between the mobile blackberry and the corporate where encrypted so that the carrier or RIM could not read the content. It became very popular with government and companies that needed secure comms at the time & the BES fine control of what the remote could or couldn't do. The BES also permitted remote wiping of the handset in the e vent it became lost or stolen.

      Yes it also became popular with teenagers at the time, but i think that was due to the cheap messaging (BBM) and the devices ease of tapping out said messages.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    See also in El Reg today

    Perhaps it was all part of the plan to make us use Huawei and their like?

    I thought I was not a conspiracy theorist, I no longer know.

    1. SquidEmperor

      Re: See also in El Reg today

      You're nuts

      (we have you name, we will be in touch)

      Trust no one.

      1. DropBear

        Re: See also in El Reg today

        "Trust no one"

        Ooooh, I see what you did there. Don't tell me what to do...!

    2. onefang

      Re: See also in El Reg today

      "I thought I was not a conspiracy theorist, I no longer know."

      The conspiracy to turn you into a conspiracy theorist is working then.

  9. PhilipN Silver badge

    Cornflakes, ketchup and 20x20 hindsight

    Echoing in part Ledswinger’s comment right at the top, I wonder if Google saw the significance of every new Nokia feature being emulated within days by the energetic engineers of Shenzhen, and the immediate need for an homogeneous mass market product (OS). The speed with which ripoff phones hit markets in the usual locations - before shipments in volume even arrived at retail in the Western Hemisphere in some cases - demonstrated the impossibility of maintaining control and integrity with the state of the market, the status of the technology and the breakneck pace of development at the time.

    In other words Nokia’s platform would eventually have been eaten, undercut and sunk anyway. The difference is that instead of buying a new cheap phone every few months and binning the old one that breakneck pace has given us - after a period of years, remember - very highly engineered and expensive phones we have to keep for 18 months.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Cornflakes, ketchup and 20x20 hindsight

      very highly engineered and expensive phones we have to keep for 18 months.

      Speak for yourself: I'm into my fourth year on second-hand devices. The eco-system around a phone often requires more after-sales support than the cheapest phones can provide.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cornflakes, ketchup and 20x20 hindsight

        I'm on my 12th year

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cornflakes, ketchup and 20x20 hindsight

      20x20 is binoculars, 20/20 is eyesight.

  10. HmmmYes

    Nokia fucked up.

    They had a dominant platform. Then Apple came and scooped the high margins, leaving Nokia a sprawling mess with current crap mobile OS (Symbian) that was OK in the mid 90s but not the mid 00s and not enough focus on the future.

    Then Nokia fucked up again, choosing Elop. Just a dumb cookie cooker idiot MBA from America. No consumer device knowledge.

    The obvious - even then - was to ditch/contract out the low end mobiles- I still have a nokia choccie bar hone - text+speech, its great. And concentrate on Android and the comms kit.

    Then the mistake which is very murky and sticks - Elop bet the farm on Windows phone. Event then it was an also ran.


    Rather than be bribed for a platform they should have moved to android - let google do the heavy expensive lifting. Just qualify/improve it on the Nokia branded hardware.

    Lessons learnt?

    Dont employ any MS management - theyll ruin you. Either thru incompetence. Or being an MS stooge.

    Dont trust MS ever.

    1. Bob Vistakin

      Just let this sink in.

      This page, showing the history of microsofts partners in mobile, has been up since 2011.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        You have to add Wileyfox to that list as they announced they were going to launch a WM10 phone.

        Probably not MS' fault, but you have to wonder given their history.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Just let this sink in ..

        @Bob Vistakin: "Just let this sink in. This page, showing the history of microsofts partners in mobile, has been up since 2011."

        It's a typical example of how the borg does business, assimilated a major player into the collective and use this to monopolize the market, only in this case they managed to sabotage their own.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Then Nokia fucked up again, choosing Elop. Just a dumb cookie cooker idiot MBA from America. No consumer device knowledge.

      I think you're wrong. Nokia's board knew his background. Elop was brought in to staunch the losses and sell the phones division, because Nokia's board knew that they couldn't turn it around. In terms of the deal he secured for his employers at Nokia, Elop did a stunningly good job, all things considered. Given the urgent need to axe costly and unprofitable activities, in his relatively brief tenure, Elop couldn't have done much extra about new handsets and software development.

      The subsequent decline and fall of Microsoft phones is entirely down to the incumbent mindset of that company, and their lack of responsiveness to the market's needs. Microsoft inherited the potential to lead on audio and camera quality at a time when competing devices were mediocre in those areas, but they squandered that; They ignored the obvious business need for a truly secure smartphone (given that Blackberry were very clearly circling the drain). And as everybody knows they screwed up their own phone OS repeatedly, despite the underlying potential. Even then, it was within Microsoft's gift to launch an Android phone, but they continued to plough the lonely furrow of Windows on phones.

      1. JoJ

        They had what everyone else wanted...

        Everyone except for consumers.

        The low hardware requirements for basic good phones.

        The network kit blackberry would have killed for, to better integrate with network/ operator features.

        The fruits of that huge r&d budget: patents that could have been a defensive moat, or favourably licensed to try to stem the knock off manufacturers by letting one or two produce ok wares.

        Prior to stupidity they had unprecedented employee loyalty and by virtue of scale alone a disproportionate amount of talent.

        I just finished reading Operation Elop, and I'm less than impressed by the paucity of context given to the wider strategy issues that such a large company faced. Maybe Elop was so monomaniacal. But if he was, the book treats the allegation as a given.

        Symbian was always crippled by the way Britain makes far too much of its rare successes. This ensures that arrogance is the main kernel thread of any software originating from our shores, imnsho. The code which Symbian became created the new broom requirement of a Elop, only during healthy times.

        The biggest lesson of reading this book is not industry specific at all. When Microsoft points to their$70bln pile, I have to wonder how, given the crucifixion probabilities in high tech worlds, how any board can be retained, who don't amass a appropriately sized rainy day stash of cash.

    3. Blotto Silver badge


      re Nokia fucked up

      i want to up and down vote you.

      Upvote for Don't trust M$ or employ its management

      Down vote for "They had a dominant platform. Then Apple came and scooped the high margins, leaving Nokia a sprawling mess "

      iPhone was a new entrant and holding on to a single carrier in each territory to help launch. At the time if you wanted a good phone the lazy choice was Nokia, followed by a Sony Ericsson, or if you needed mail on the move it was a blackberry.

      Your suggesting that Nokia ran away from a fight with Apples iPhone, but Nokia had the history to win the fight, apple had everything to prove and its high price was against it.

      I got an iPhone 1 and returned it because it was crap, i used nokia symbians up until i got my iPhone 4 which was the year Elop took over. Instead of getting a new Nokia every year i'm now on my third iPhone after 8 years. I was actually quite happy paying £400 for a new Nokia every year and £40 per month for airtime. I now pay more for each phone but buy less of them and pay only £10 per month for airtime, so i'm actually saving more with apple.

      I'd rather had a nokia with a proper nokia OS. i wouldn't have had a nokia with windows on it, id rather gone BlackBerry or Android than deal with Windows at work and on my phone.

    4. Shonko Kid

      " current crap mobile OS (Symbian)"

      Not having that.

      Sure, Series 60 5th edition was a mess as Nokia had tried to emulate iPhone, and the developer story had issues, but Symbian OS, the actual base platform was a very small Real-Time micro kernel architecture OS, that could be run up on some pretty low-end hardware, which was exactly what all phone OEMs at the time wanted. Android, even now, is no where close. The problem was, that that requirement was thrown out the window in order to chase iPhone with bells and whistles, and the key OS platform requirement became time to market and OS bring up time on new hardware, something Symbian hadn't really focussed on (new phone models typically took 18-24 months from concept to market at the time).

      Symbian OS had problems sure, but it wasn't "crap".

      1. DropBear

        Re: " current crap mobile OS (Symbian)"

        Seconded. My previous phone (that is, the one I've been using before the current one!) was a Series 60 3rd edition, and it was an absolutely marvellous device. Certain things it did better than even the latest Androids today. It's no longer a practical option obviously, but "crap"? Fuck no!

      2. JoJ

        Re: " current crap mobile OS (Symbian)"


        Try texting on a cheap MobiFone...

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

    When Elop arrived at Nokia, they were selling more phones than Apple and Samsung put together. Their market share and unit sales were increasing right up until the burning platform memo. The Elop went to the carriers with the generous gift of being able to sell Microsoft phones and they told him "We hate Skype". Skype (owned by Microsoft) was eating the carrier's breakfast, so Nokia's excellent relationship with the carriers went straight down the toilet.

    Doing a Ratner was not enough to knock Nokia out of the top 10. Elop had to combine it with a Osbourne. Nokia could not manufacture Windows phones. Their factories stood idle while manufacture was contracted out. When Nokia/Windows phones eventually reached the market, salesmen hid them. Two out of three Lumia's were promptly returned by customers. Salesmen did not want the hassle of filling in the returns paperwork, so they worked hard not to sell Lumias in the first place.

    On top of pissing off the sales force and most customers, Microsoft was able to drive away Nokia's loyal customers by removing any hope of a software upgrade path.

    No-one else has ever destroyed a market leading company so fast and thoroughly. Elop should take credit for his unique achievement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

      Much of the decline during Elop's time was down to the fact that Nokia hadn't been developing the right products in 2008-2010, and the competition were offering better. No matter who'd taken over, sales would have collapsed.

      Take capacitive screens - in the volume market, Nokia were still using crap resistive screens until the X6 launched in 2009. But the original iPhone had been offering a lovely capacitive screen since 2007. And up until then Nokia had been obsessively pushing candy-bar formats when the market wanted thinner devices with larger screens, or they'd been offering niche devices like the N97. Nokia had the Ovi store, but functionality was a big bit crap, their Symbian software was not seen as modern and effective, and it didn't help that so much of the Nokia world was proprietary, so that they rapidly lost ground to the open source aspect of Android.

      Elop may not have been a perfect steward, but Nokia phones failure (as part of the Nokia group) was Made in Finland in the years 2006-2010.

      1. ScissorHands

        Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

        They were developing the right product, they just "forgot" to launch it.

        They had a world beater in the N900 - it became "experimental"

        They had a world conqueror in the N9 - it wasn't allowed to upset the Windows applecart

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

          Elop said in an interview that even if the N9 sells great, they wouldn't expand the roll-out to other markets or make a successor.

          Can't find the link, but it shows you what he was up to.

        2. juice

          Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

          Not sure I agree with that one.

          The N900 (and the earlier models, such as the N800, which I used as an ebook reader for years) suffered from the same issue as their consumer models, such as the 5800 (which I also owned): Nokia thought of the mobile phone as a shrunk-down PC, and the UI reflected that with scrollbars and Windows-style scrolling - albeit with a stylus instead of a mouse.

          I even remember nokia adverts at the time promoting this as a good thing!

          Meanwhile, Apple, Google and their ilk had taken lessons from the PDA market - make things simpler, make them finger-friendly.

          Also, the N*00 range was never really intended to be a world beater - Maemo was a skunkworks project and never really received much love, no matter how nice the hardware it ran on was. Plus, it was based on Linux, and to date, no-one's really been able to make that work on a phone - at least, not for the mass market.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            (and the earlier models, such as the N800, which I used as an ebook reader for years)

            I still have (somewhere) both the N770 and N800 units that I bought and used as an ebook reader and sometimes browser[1] for years (and I still sometimes use fbreader on my Android devices).

            Nice units, but not really usable by non-techies. And the lack of 2G/3G/GSM was a killer - who wanted a device that they couldn't make phone calls on? Sure, you could (sort of) use the internet via a tethered phone but that involved carrying two devices and chargers and wasn't worth the hassle.

            [1] Neither had much in the way of networking, but they did have bluetooth. So I stuck a bluetooth USB stick in the back of one of my linux boxes at home and set the Nokia units up to use them as bluetooth gateways. I was unfeasably proud of that..

          2. Blotto Silver badge

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            Android and IOS are based on unix type OS's, i'd say they work well on phones.



          3. onefang

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            "Plus, it was based on Linux, and to date, no-one's really been able to make that work on a phone - at least, not for the mass market."

            Last I checked Android is Linux, and I'm almost sure Android is mass market. On the other hand, not all Android devices are phones.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

              Last I checked Android is Linux,

              No, it's not recognisable linux. It's based on some bits of core linux buried deep under layers of noxious cruft.

              1. onefang

                Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

                "No, it's not recognisable linux. It's based on some bits of core linux buried deep under layers of noxious cruft."

                The post I was replying to didn't say anything about recognisable Linux, just Linux. When I posted that I went looking through my Android phone, and saw things like dnsmasq, it has more Linux in it than my Linux based router. Was surprised actually, no idea why dnsmasq is needed in a phone.

                Some people might make the same argument about $(your most hated Linux distro) and $(your most hated DE / WM), some bits of core Linux buried deep under layers of noxious cruft.

                1. werdsmith Silver badge

                  Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

                  So is Darwin based Apple Watch OS really UNIX then ?

                  As the XNU kernel is hybrid BSD/Mach and OSX is Unix 03 certified, so my iPhone is actually a UNIX phone.

                  1. onefang

                    Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

                    "So is Darwin based Apple Watch OS really UNIX then ?

                    "As the XNU kernel is hybrid BSD/Mach and OSX is Unix 03 certified, so my iPhone is actually a UNIX phone."

                    I've been saying for many years that Unix won the computer wars long ago, just no one told Microsoft. Android, BSD, Linux, Mac OS and iOS, even Blackberry's QNX, all Unix variants. Every now and then Microsoft adds a bit of some sort of Unix to Windows, they'll get there eventually.

            2. juice

              Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

              Wow, that was a lot of downvotes :)

              Anyhow, I did debate clarifying my point about "linux on a mobile" - I was thinking of the various efforts such as Firefox OS and Ubuntu Phone, where the OS is/was a lot more front and centre. But my lunchbreak was nearly over and I didn't figure it'd be that controversial ;)

              Beyond that, I don't think I've said anything above and beyond what jillesvangurp has expanded on.

              Maemo (and the hardware that went with it) was a nice idea, but popped up at the wrong time and in the wrong place; Nokia simply had too much financial and emotional investment in Symbian to do anything significant with it. And as a result, it suffered from the traditional commercial open-source fate of being dumped on the community once the official funding runs out. I remember having much fun filing bug-reports/support requests while trying to find the right combination of drivers/config to get an external bluetooth keyboard working - and I still get emails about the Maemo community elections, to this day.

              Also, if memory serves, I did debate buying an N900 at the time, but decided against it; between the smaller screen and clunky physical keyboard, it felt like a step back from my trusty N800. Instead, I think my first touchscreen phone was an LG Cookie, since it was ridiculously cheap (at the time) on PAYG; by the time I migrated onto Android via Sony and HTC, the writing was very much appearing on the wall for Nokia's eco-systems.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Last I checked Android is Linux"

              It has a Linux kernel, but it's not "Linux" as most people think "Linux" is - Google bolted a Java flavour on top of it as the "user space" system and for application development. Android is quite "hybrid".

              Just like macOS/iOS borrowed a lot from BSD - but the driver subsystem and most of the user space system is not BSD.

              You can't take a Linux application, especially a GUI one, and make it run on Android without modifications. MeeGo in this sense was very much alike a Linux distribution - it even used rmps. That's why it got a fanatic fan base among Linuxistas who shed tears as soon as they see a SSH shell on their phones.

              And that's why it utterly failed - really almost nobody needed a full Linux distro on the phones.

        3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

          The N900 wasn't finished. The N9 wasn't finished. Maemo / Meego weren't finished. And didn't have any apps. Windows Phone didn't have the apps either. And never caught up with Android / iOS.

          They couldn't release Asha, the update to make Symbian at least bearable until a year, 18 months after Elop took over.

          All the competing OSes died for lack of apps and support. And only MS had the cash on hand to keep Windows Phone going, and flat out pay for developers to make them apps. Which they did. But only a few million dollars.

          MS could have invested sufficiently in Windows Phone, both in getting developers and keeping it updated. But all updates were late, and never fully-featured, that always came in the next update that was just a year away. Or maybe 18 months.... They just weren't serious enough. When Bill Gates was in charge, he drove them into the mobile market, and I don't think Ballmer or Nadella really cared. So they only played at it.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            And didn't have any apps.

            They did, but not from Nokia. I can't remember the details, but there were sites that published and maintained lists of open-source (and some closed-source) apps for them. Hence I managed to get a good ebook reader for my units (fbreader - pretty good for those days and is still OK on Android).

          2. ScissorHands

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            The N9 was more finished than the iPhone 3G. Only the iPhone 3GS even approached "finished"...

            The N9 was more slick and more "touch" than iOS ever was until the new iPhoneX "gestures"- and even then, whenever I have to use my iPad I scream at how dumb and clunky it is to jump and share items between applications.

            I used my N9 for 5 years and it only stopped being my daily driver because I could no longer find good batteries for it. The N9 could've been the start of great things. Many Qt apps for Symbian would work with minimal changes, and vice-versa. Qt Quick was easier to develop for than Android "Java". Etc.

          3. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            The N9 was very finished and received excellent reviews where Elop deigned to release it.

            Asha was S40 on steroids, not Symbian.

            The Ovi/Nokia Store did have developers and apps and at that time had something no-one else did, operator charging in practically any country. Then the burning platform memo, Elop's support for Skype on WP, and a hatchet job on Nokia's logistics stopped all that.

            1. Dinsdale247

              Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

              The N8 and E7 were my favorites. There was nothing else as beautiful on the market at the time...

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

            3. Lomax
              Thumb Up

              Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

              > The N9 was very finished and received excellent reviews where Elop deigned to release it.

              Indeed it did. For example it won "Best Mobile" at the Swedish "Guldmobilen" awards 2011. Still have mine and sometimes use it, but the lack of updates makes it a poor everyday device. When I do use it though, I am always struck by its elegance; the solid, pocket friendly exterior (nary a scratch on mine, despite daily carrying in the pocket if my jeans for several years). The glorious curved OLED screen; low res, by today's standard, but not obviously so in 2011, and featuring customizable "always on" clock and status indicators (I'm reminded of this whenever I glance at the screen on my current mobile, hoping to see the current time/date and whether I have any messages, only to find it's just a dumb black slab). That on-screen keyboard, which seemed to read your mind and magically work out what letter you were after, and which had haptic feedback that actually worked. The incredible, nay, frikkin mindblowing Nokia Maps app, which gave me every stop and station on every bus, train and tube line in any country I visited, with offline maps (remember roaming charges), ultra smooth zoom, rotate and drag, where the street names would try to remain fully inside the display, integration with the phone book, easy to add own waypoints and notes - it even had an excellent "turn by turn" sibling called "Nokia Drive" that could give any dedicated satnav a run for its money. As a whole one of the best applications I have ever seen on any mobile device. The revolutionary "Swipe" user interface, which made it a doddle to use the phone single handed - without having to reach for any physical menu buttons at all. I could go on, but:

              New rule: anyone who wants to pontificate about Nokia's supposed lack of of an answer to the iPhone must first spend a day with the N9 - followed by a day with the iPhone 4.

          4. Dinsdale247

            Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

            "They couldn't release Asha, the update to make Symbian at least bearable until a year, 18 months after Elop took over."

            If you read up on the history, the core OS of Symbian had flaws that didn't allow it to really take advantage of new screens and resolutions. It was designed for pre-iPhone type hardware. The internal teams that were tasked with fixing the problem fought each other for resources. I worked with a woman that was a Project Manager for Nokia at a team in Canada and she told me the nightmare stories about inter-office battles.

            "MS could have invested sufficiently in Windows Phone, both in getting developers and keeping it updated."

            I couldn't agree more. Corporate bungling.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "They had a world beater in the N900 "

          LOL! All my colleagues who bought it hated it soon. It had a resistive touch screen in 2009, and many issues.

          It was the wet dream phone only for Linux fanatics syadmins - a tiny, tiny tiny minority of phone users. The only one who cared for a SSH shell on their phones.

          The same who are still dreaming after each Android derivative that not surprisingly sells a few thousand phones only.

          No surprise it was beaten by the iPhone. Lumias had better chances than the N900.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Hans 1

    I wouldn't read too much into Nokia's "comeback" – but it provides grist for the mill for critics who insist Nokia should have gone Android as soon as it could. Who knows? The debate will never go away.

    Why not, proof if any was needed, that Android was a solution ... back then and now. Anything that thinks WP was smarter than Symbian, Meego, Linux or Android needs brain surgery. Any of these options would have worked much better than WP ... why ? Because Nokia had the know-how to create great smartphone OS' ... they were in for a surprise when Jobs showed off the iPhone, deprecating* any communications device of the time, all with a 20 minutes or so presentation (you can argue xyz looked similar, behaved similar, whatever, iPhone slaughtered the market, undeniable fact, end of story). I think that caused panic @Nokia ... they should have stuck to one platform, do it well, basta ... instead, they went left right and center, we need something NOW, if we can, with as little work as possible to compete ... Apple had spent half a decade developing what eventually became the iPhone, you cannot catch up over a fortnight. Blackberry was also too ambitious with their BB10 and hence late to market ...

    * In the minds of average punters

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Hans 1,

      It's only proof that Andriod was the solution if HMD actually make profits on their Nokia branded phones. So far they sell a few million, but we don't know if they're profitable.

      Only Samsung make any money from selling Android. Maybe Huwaei and some of the other Chinese companies now are? But HTC, Sony, Motorola, LG and so on have been just breaking even or burning cash for nearly a decade now.

      Once they lost all the high-end profits to Apple, and them Samsung, Nokia were in serious trouble. And going Android was as much of a gamble as going Windows Phone. Android was more likely to succeed, as it had more handset manufacturers, but that also meant more competition - and you'd probably only make a profit on the high-end phones. And maybe only if you could dethrone Samsung - who had more cash to invest.

      Going Windows meant a higher risk of the platform dying, but less competition and the chance to make money on the corporate market - with mid-price handsets.

      The upside of going Windows was that Nokia got to sell their handset division as a going concern, for actual money. How long could they have supported the cashflow of a money-losing Android division? And how much more would it have cost the rest of the company to pay to wind it down - rather than making cash when they sold it?

      The time to panic for Nokia was when the iPhone came out in 2007. They didn't. They failed. Perils of a fast-changing market.

  14. lleres

    Android not the only option

    Nokia did not fail by not switching to Android - it failed by not developing their own smartphone OS quickly enough, instead wasting resources on beating the Symbian dead horse.

    As a result, neither platforms were fit for purpose and Nokia was forced into a choice of third party OS. It does not matter which they chose - they were doomed to fail from the point of being in the position of having to make that choice.

    Ironically, Meego, what was supposed to be the Symbian replacement, did get an actual day in the sun in the form of Sailfish (, as part of a startup started by ex-Nokia engineers to release what Meego would have been.

    I bought their first phone, the OS was incredible - fast, easy to use, gesture based, true multitasking, native apps, third party android JVM up to 2.4. However, the native apps were too few and of too low quality and the phone did not have enough memory to run the memory intensive android apps, in addition to many newer apps not being supported due to the old android JVM used.

    The irony is that Nokia did have the resources to put into making high quality apps for it had they focused their efforts on one platform.

    In the end, the fact that Elop was a trojan horse is irrelevant - Nokia were already doomed by the time he waded in with MS stock in his back pocket.

    1. ScissorHands

      Re: Android not the only option

      Sailfish is the N9's OS without some the best UI ideas (which were patented by Nokia and sold to Microsoft) and an Android emulator.

  15. Bilboboggins

    Mr self destruct (but the board were the real idiots)

    Steps in how to destroy a company (mobile phone side)

    1) Publicly bad-mouth the existing main (struggling mostly due to a dated UI) offering for smart phones whilst simultaneously relying on it for high end revenue for the next 2 years (burning platform speech*)

    2) Realise there are no credible alternatives coming out of the Nokia pipeline for the next year and a half (of course you may very will think that if 1 came after 2 then it looked like someone deliberately sabotaging Nokia...)

    3) Pin your high-end mobile hopes on windows platforms. sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

    However, the real accolades need to go to the Nokia board whom agreed to pay Elop a fortune even if he completely messed up (which he duly did).

    As sympathizing for Mr Elop himself - seriously? He got paid handsomely for failing spectacularly and impacted a lot of people whilst displaying no observable traits of caring about those impacted by his decisions. So obviously we should all give him a hug now.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Repeat after me: Trojan Horse Elop

    That is all.

    In a perverse way, I had actually wanted Mr Elop to become Microsoft's CEO after Steve Ballmer. This should not be misconstrued as praise for SatNad, mind you.

  17. Dinsdale247

    As a Windows Phone Fan...

    1) The carriers do not want multiple OSes to have to support. As Blackberry waned, the carriers only cared about having a foil against giving Apple a monopoly. BB couldn't do it (the storm and fire were flops) and MS pissed off all the carriers multiple times. I am also convinced Google and Samsung paid great sums of money to the carriers to keep Windows phone out of the market in the US.

    2) While it's nice to try to pin it all on one person, the death of Nokia was a perfect example of corporate bungling: Great hardware, great OS with lots of features. What did I get for supporting Nokia and Windows Phone? Each year I received:

    - Discontinued hardware (We had our Lumia 700's for 3 months when MS announced it wouldn't be bringing them forward).

    - No new hardware or designs

    - No new OS features. In fact, each upgrade they removed more and more of the great features we used. Each release was almost 2 years apart in Canada.

    - No new look and feel - Come on MS, add some colors or themes or something. Did it really need to take 4 years to give us transparent tiles?

    - Less apps every year.

    All the while Android was getting more invasive... er I mean, more feature complete. Stephen didn't kill Nokia. Microsoft and Nokia were totally unable to keep existing users because they were more concerned about their bottom line than the users. The market never expanded because everyone that bought a Lumia wound up jumping ship a year later due to lack of many things that were basic features on other phones.

    3) The death kneel as a user was when Netflix refused to support the platform. "Yes honey, Netflix can be streamed anywhere... except YOUR phone." Shortly after that the banks started pulling support for banking apps.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Oh, the irony

    My employer is rolling out Samsung S8 with Android Nougat, it's still a load of ramshackle shareware with confusing UI in comparison to my Lumia 950 and Windows 10 mobile

  19. Lomax

    New rule:

    Anyone who wants to pontificate about Nokia's supposed lack of of an answer to the iPhone must first spend a day with the N9 - followed by a day with the iPhone 4.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As it was explained to me from some insiders who knew the decision...

    At the time, you had Android, Microsoft and Apple. 3 OSs.

    If Nokia entered with a 4th, how do you convince app developers to support a 4th OS?

    That was a big deal because people choose their phones by the availability of the apps they use.

    That would mean that Nokia would have to spend $$$ to get people to port their apps. Huge risk and gamble. On the other hand... Microsoft was willing to pay $$$$$$ (big money) to use their OS.

    Posted Anon for the obvious reasons.

  21. DrBed

    MeeGo was here.

    "With no immediate "successor" to offer the market – Windows Phone and Nokia's first Meego device were months away – Nokia's cash problems immediately worsened."

    Not true.

    1) Nokia N9 MeeGo was ready, but intentionally killed 2 days after public presentation. By CEO Elop himself, directly (Elop: "there is no returning to MeeGo, even if the N9 turns out to be a hit"). N9 was sold where ever it's offered, just - Elop shrinked it as much as he could.

    2) MeeGo was designed to be Android compatible, so parachute (or escape pod) for MeeGo was already incorporated: if it fails, transition to "full" Android should be flawless.

    Think about containers: it is how Chromebooks / ChromeOS run Android apps. It is all about Linux, after all.

    Beside: "The authors point out that Nokia could have ported its own Ovi services to Android" - exactly.

    Fast resurrections of Meego clone as a Sailfish OS (Jolla), and Android Nokia (under HMD Global) are proof: Elop's switch to Windows Phone was strongly forced move in the wrong direction.

    3) Nokia's main cellphone profit, for years after first WP Lumia shows up (and even more after MeeGo!) was still - dumbphones. Asha dumbhones, based on old Nokia design, as repacked Meltemi Linux & Series 40 (with UI parts of Symbian, Maemo and MeeGo).

    With that in mind, "Nokia's cash problems immediately worsened" sounds peculiar.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blaming one person (the CEO, Stephen Elop) is a bit too much. True, he positioned Nokia well enough for it to be sold to Microsoft for the cost of packet of Walkers crisps. There are other things at play however. Finnish are a folk on their own, they don't take well international markets, demands etc. And the tech world is quite demanding. Nokia weren't quick enough to adapt to the rise of Apple, Samsung, HTC and Blackberry. Some of the most talented people from Nokia went to work for another, new, telecom company - Jolla. The first phone was good but overpriced - two/three years after the release they were still selling it at it's full price. They had a tablet coming up and preorders taken, the project was constantly pushed back until it was completely cancelled.

    They come with very good ideas but customers never, or very rarely, see the end results. Or if they do the Customer Support is shocking (and they see nothing wrong with it). I remember my former employer buying a Finnish VPN client (the name shall not be mentioned). We bought it, implemented it around May/June time and some issues started to arise in July. You thought Italian holiday period was bad? Try Finnish. Senior technical support went on holiday for over a month.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " it to be sold to Microsoft for the cost of packet of Walkers crisps"

      It looks you buy really overpriced crisps... I guess Nokia shareholders didn't complain much about the billions they made.

    2. DrBed

      Jolla is now guilty instead of Elop?

      "Some of the most talented people from Nokia went to work for another, new, telecom company - Jolla." ("Blaming one person (the CEO, Stephen Elop) is a bit too much."... "There are other things at play however"...)

      TIMELINE? Causes?

      Elop came as CEO 2010. Nokia (MeeGo) N9 was announced on 21 June 2011.

      Elop anounced murdering of MeeGo even if succesful - on 23 June 2011 (just 2 days later!)

      N9 was finally available - but only in e.g. Switzerland, but not any major country - in September 2011.

      Part of MeeGo team left Nokia to become Jolla, because of all of that - on October 2011.

      "Jolla was founded in 2011 by former Nokia staff of the MeeGo project team to use the MeeGo opportunities and its "endless possibilities"."

      btw from wiki above: "'yolla', the company name is Finnish for dinghy (a small agile boat or life rescue boat). " < As I said before, Elop destroyed Nokia's escape pod / rescue boat (MeeGo).

  23. jillesvangurp

    Meego could have been the Android platform of choice

    I was in Nokia at the time and it got very ugly in terms of strategy. The strategic blunders that set Nokia up for failure started way before Elop nudged Nokia into the grave. I've always seen the man as the symptom rather than the problem. I'd argue the first blunder was buying into Symbian around the time Linux was obviously the thing to bet on in the late nineties. Nokia bet on the wrong horse; just like many other phone manufacturers that no longer exist.

    Maemo/Meego was pretty much exactly the strategy that Android followed half a decade later. It was the right thing to do. Nokia was leading in that space and it was by and large doing all the right things technically with in house R&D. However, at the time Elop joined, it had fallen victim to infighting. Anssi Vanjoki, Niklas Savander and other high placed executives had frustrated its roadmap for years at that point to keep the sinking ship called Symbian afloat. Meego/maemo never stood a chance with those people around.

    For reference, Android sucked donkey balls at the time. It was slow, it had major UX challenges, and it's only redeeming feature was that it provided an IOS like touch screen experience in a market otherwise dominated by Nokia with doomed legacy platforms. Nokia had rushed a version of Symbian to market with touch screen functionality. This version was painfully bad. To do it, the geniuses in charge repeatedly ignored a little touch screen based OS called Maemo (later rebranded as Meego) which was essentially debian linux with (initially) an X based mobile UI and a modern Mozilla based browser. This shipped as the N770 in 2006 and had Nokia done the obious things around that time, it could have shipped it as a phone OS very soon thereafter years before either Apple or Google and anything decent to ship. This never happened and that was not an accident.

    The ipad took another 5 years to launch and this was 2 years before the iphone shipped; 3 years before Android shipped. Nokia's failure was actively working to frustrate Maemo/Meego every step of the way. Multiple projects for launching products got shelved; several got re-purposed to run Symbian instead. Also Operators hated the thought of a non crippled software platform running things like a real web browser, and the full complement of internet communication tools that they could not control. At the time SMS was how you made money, even bundling an email client or any of the common chat clients was controversial. Never mind the audio and video capable Skype that Nokia bundled with the N800, in 2007. And all Meego products that did eventually launch got marketed as 'developer phones' with no marketing to ensure nobody would buy them. It wasn't until the n900 in 2010 that Nokia even did the obvious thing of bundling the necessary hardware and software to turn Maemo/Meego into a phone, a full four years after the N770 shipped. The n900 was deliberately designed to fail. It had less memory/cpu than it should have had, it had a clunky form factor to make competing products like the Symbian N8 look better. The n8 btw, was originally intended to be a Meego flagship phone: guess what happened there. And for reference, the N8 had an Oled screen and a 13MP camera. In 2010. People are drooling over specs like that today. Imagine that phone running mobile linux with a nice new UI, a developer friendly platform, and android compatibility just a simple OSS install away in 2010. That's what Nokia failed to do.

    Now Android and Meego are not two different things. They are essentially flavors of the same thing, which is mobile linux. In fact modern Android includes lots of code that originates from Nokia's attempts to make Meego run well on mobile hardware (drivers, kernel tweaks, etc.). The platforms were in fact so similar that until the first Nexus phone shipped, the only way to run Android was on Nokia hardware: the N800 and N810 were widely used for early android development since you could dual boot it into whatever. The hardware just worked because the kernel was essentially the same for both platforms. Also, you could trivially modify any Meego phone to run Android apps with a few components easily built from source using debian linux tools that ran unmodified on it. I've done so. Nokia had the choice to do that from way before Android launched right until the moment Stephen Elop executed the will of the Nokia board to never allow that to happen. The reasons for this essentially boil down to arrogance, not invented here, and severe & chronic lack of vision throughout senior management. This is what sank Nokia.

    Elop actually did a few things right when he joined. He correctly identified the guilty parties and most of them were gone within months after his appointment. Then he killed Symbian, which at that point was sucking up billions in R&D without much hope for ever earning those back. But then he was of course hired to push through the windows phone agenda and he started removing obstacles for that. Killing Symbian was at that point long overdue. Killing Meego on the other hand was a strategic blunder. And killing it's secretive little brother Meltemi was bordering on criminally insane. Google is still trying to execute the strategy with Android Go that Nokia had for Meltemi to ship mobile linux on dirt cheap phones. It got shot down within months of the first product launches.

    Of course Microsoft incompetence sealed the deal. In retrospect, outsourcing the demise of Nokia to MS was genius. Nokia essentially got payed to not have to deal with that. MS itself victim of major leadership issues never really figured out how to run a phone division and pretty much strangled it's acquisition from day 1; they never even tried to make it work. The layoffs started right away. To add insult to injury, HMD started shipping only last year and grabbed more market share than windows phone ever had shipping generic android. HMD leapfrogged anything MS did with windows phone in just a few months with nothing more than the memory of a brand name and a couple of generic Android phones made in China.

    1. arva

      Re: Meego could have been the Android platform of choice

      IMHO N900 was a great phone. Agree it could have had more RAM, however in other specs quite OK. I still use N900 occasionally when doing sysadmin job from remote. :-)

      I think you meant N9 instead of N8 in the 4th paragraph.

      Last paragraph is a nice hypothesis, can't believe it was an intention. Finish are proud, they wouldn't do that.

    2. lleres

      Re: Meego could have been the Android platform of choice

      Well said and mirrors my own experiences with Sailfish. Nokia had the chance to be a real force in the smartphone era with an OS and UI that truly differentiated itself from others in meaningful, productive ways.

      Then gave it all up to use Windows Phone.

      Until about a year ago, a Sailfish powered phone was my main mobile device. Had there been newer options with better specs and more recent Android JVM support, it still would be.

  24. Charles Calthrop

    wonderful article

    I saw an advert for the Nokia watch on the tube the other day, and I was surprised at how sad I still felt about the decline of Nokia. The reporting of the decline and fall is perhaps El Reg's greatest legacy; I find it fascinating to read about and the details you have uncovered are still interesting.

    Thanks to the authors for the PDF. A great article.

  25. waterishail

    Data plans were the killer

    I remember having a conference in London around 2000 where I was pleading with Nokia to sell data plans with the phones like Apple was. For a reason that was not clearly expained at the time (I think it was something about cannibalising operator revenue) they would not do it so the Ovi story ended up very weak as people were too price conscious to include data plans with their phones.

    Of course their relationship with the network operators did not help either in that the operators did not want to cannibalise sales of ringtones etc and their biggest fear was becoming dumb pipes where they could not get a slice of the app sales or be able to push new services they could control. Nokia was afraid of annoying the network operators so were caught between the apple ecosystem and the blackberry BES with nothing to offer aside from good but lacklustre hardware.

  26. Lomax
    Thumb Up

    A reminder of what could have been


    "As the first new Nokia smartphone to operate without the chains of legacy software, the N9 finally demonstrates some of that dormant software innovation from the labs in Espoo. I first saw it at Nokia’s introductory event in June of this year and, though my expectations were low, was blown away by how intuitive, responsive, and fluid the whole interface was. I wasn’t alone, either. Just about everyone who got a chance to play with the N9 remarked upon its superlative design and wondered aloud why Nokia was abandoning such a promising platform. Because, oh yes, Nokia had decided a few months earlier to transition its entire smartphone strategy to Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS and consign MeeGo to the status of a one-hit (i.e. the N9) wonder."

    "The thing that ties everything together on the N9 is Nokia’s new concept of a Swipe UI. There are no physical or capacitive menu buttons on the N9 because of this one devastatingly simple and equally effective innovation. Swiping in from any edge of the screen drags the app you’re in out of the way and brings up your most recent homescreen. It’s so easy and natural that I honestly started doing edge-swipes on other phones, an experience that filled me with equal measures of disappointment and embarrassment."

    "The N9′s onscreen keyboard is sublime. Every key is just about the perfect size, the comma and full stop sit either side of the space bar (where they belong), and there are three levels of haptic feedback. For the first time in my life, I didn’t switch off the haptic option, it actually contributes to the experience of typing exactly the way it was always meant to but never managed before this exceptional phone."

    "It’s hard to overstate how much of a departure the N9 is from Nokia’s old comfort zone. Whereas the company’s previous effort at building a new touchscreen OS, once known as Symbian^3, was all too timid and reluctant to move too far away from its roots, this new MeeGo stuff has no qualms about dispensing with the old."

    "The only other company that has shown this kind of immaculate care with keeping design themes consistent is Apple. Ultimately, what Nokia has put together in the N9′s UI is nothing short of a triumph. It feels cohesive and, remarkably, lives up to the fantastic elegance of the phone’s physical design and construction."

    "From the moment you unlock the N9, screen animations flow around your finger like gentle waves of awesomeness. Transitions between homescreens, scrolling, and pinch-to-zoom are all delectably smooth and fluid. That applies to the full range of preloaded native apps, like the browser, maps, gallery, and mail and messaging clients. Both recording and playback of 720p video work flawlessly, and though there’s no Flash support in the default browser, the YouTube app does a perfectly fine job of playing back web content."

    "The Harmattan UI is fresh, slick, and as natural as anything the smartphone world has yet introduced, while the physical design is unmatched. Not even the shiny new iPhone 4S feels as luxurious in the hand as the N9."

    "Stephen Elop has personally shut the door on future consumer products running MeeGo Harmattan, which renders the N9 and its developer-focused sibling the N950 the only exhibitors of this essentially abandoned OS."

  27. briesmith

    Microsoft will rue the day they abandoned their own phone. It will emerge as one of the worst corporate decisions ever made.

    The smartphone is heading towards sonic screwdriver status; not to have your own screwdriver is simply crazy.

  28. Brian Allan 1

    The choice of Windows Phone as the operating system was the downfall! There probably wasn't a worse choice at the time. Android would probably have saved the company.

  29. Marcus_Bond

    Big companies can only grow by aquisition

    Interesting discussion... my own opinion is that shareholders generally have very little interest in a company's products, they are only interested in how much money than can get out of their investment. They are quite happy to take their money out of Nokia and put it Apple if it will make them more money, it's all the same to them, and they don't tend to be interested in taking risks.

    Big companies generally can't innovate, they can really only grow by the acquisition of smaller companies. As a big company Nokia just couldn't react to the iphone broadside fast enough. Combined with the problem of shareholders who probably wanted to salvage as much money from Nokia as possible... that was the end of Nokia.

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