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Nokia’s Blame Game: Who’s Really at Fault for Nokia’s Decline?


I am going to start this post off by being “Captain Obvious” Nokia is not the smartphone powerhouse it use to be.  I know it, you know, let’s face it everyone knows it.  Here’s the thing…everyone likes to place blame somewhere for this failure and it lands on the head of one man more often than not…Stephen Elop.  Is this fair? Should it be blamed somewhere else? If it shouldn’t, why point fingers at him all day long?  Let’s take a closer look shall we?

How about we cut right to the chase here and let you know that Mr. Elop is the not the reason Nokia is in the state it’s in right now.  I am not saying he didn’t make some mistakes but the Nokia ship was sinking from mismanagement long before he arrive on the scene.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this chart that shows the Operating Profit Value Share of OEM’s.  It breaks it down B.E. (before Elop) and A.E. (After Elop).


As you can see most of Nokia’s decline happened B.E. with an actual slowing of  decline once he took over the reins. While there was not much lower that Nokia could go when he took over you can see there was “soft landing” at the bottom.  Not only that but guess what?  Between lay offs, trimming the fat, and a bunch of other bold moves Nokia made $269 million in the 4th Qtr of 2012.  While this doesn’t sound like much for a company of Nokia’s size it is quite a turnaround from the 1.3927 billion dollar loss that Nokia had in the same quarter of 2011.

This leaves the questions…why are people blaming Elop and what really happened?  The first question is easy enough to answer.  People are blaming Elop because he was the face of  the group that killed the beloved Symbian operating system.  Symbian was is a killer OS that has all the openness of Android and the stability of iOS.  With a HUGE public image issue.

That leads right into why Nokia dropped like a rock from 2007 to 2012. In a word Symbian.  Wait don’t jump me in a dark alley for the last statement.  I loved Symbian however Nokia management played it’s cards completely wrong with Symbian.  While the rest of the world was oohing and awing at the iPhone, Nokia’s big machine was still mired in flip phones and considered touch screens to be a passing fad.  Therefore they didn’t even think about making Symbian easier to use and more touch screen friendly till the Nokia 5800 released in the in the 4th Qtr of 2008.   Not only that but it took until 1st qtr 2012 for Nokia to release (this is A.E. now) a truly user friendly Symbian OS in Symbian Belle.  The rub here is by the time Symbian was truly a modern OS in Belle simply the name Symbian had most consumers running for the hills.

The other thing that could have, no check that should have saved Nokia from itself was Maemo 5 a simply brilliant jaw dropping open source OS that was years ahead of it’s time when released to the world in September 2009 on the Nokia N900.  This OS turned into MeeGo as used on the Nokia N9.  MeeGo was actually Maemo 6 a progression of the Maemo 5 OS.  If Nokia would have stuck with Maemo in 2009, ditched Symbian and tweaked it to run Android apps I believe it would still be king of the mobile mountain.

Bottom line here is Nokia was doomed by old school, slow to react management that either could have updated Symbian faster to it’s Belle state or made a heavy bet on the future with Maemo. (Hell they could have done both at the same time)  Instead they choose neither leaving Nokia on a fast ride to the bottom.   When Elop stepped in he had no choice but to make a bold move.  What was the bold move? He mad the same type of bet that Motorola made on Android.  Except this time it was on the untested Windows Phone OS.  Will it work?  Right now the jury’s still out but…it looks more and more like it will with every passing day.

Credit for chart to @juuuso