Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nokia Plan X

Fun little discussion at HN regarding an initiative by some young Nokia shareholders/employees/something to oust Elop as CEO and get Nokia to do some internal innovation (i.e. take a page from Apple's book on how Apple came to dominate the mobile phone market).
  • MeeGo will be Nokia’s primary smartphone platform. This is where the bulk of the innovation will happen. If MeeGo does not bring great devices to market on an accelerated pace, this strategy will not work. MeeGo smartphones and tablet devices will offer overwhelmingly superior experiences and applications than iOS and Android based competitor products. To reduce time to market, all MeeGo R&D will be done in-house and in a single geographical location. If necessary, suspend cooperation with Intel and concentrate resources on innovation and releasing new Nokia MeeGo devices to market faster.
Cute.  Basically, if Plan A is to ditch all internal efforts and go with Windows Phone 7, then Plan B is to revert to whatever was happening before Plan A?  So Plan B is to revert to... Plan Zero?  Plan "In the Beginning"?  Basically, they're saying, "Look, it'll be different this time.  Just give us some time."  Heh.  But they've had years and couldn't get it together.  Why trust them now?
  • Increase the lifespan of Symbian to a minimum of 5 years. Reap the profits of the existing market share and consumer preference that Symbian already enjoys in Europe and Asia.  Increasingly use Symbian to target mid-tier and feature phone segments. Up-sell existing Symbian users to MeeGo. Focus Symbian efforts in specific countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America where Nokia and Symbian enjoy a high level of consumer goodwill and can be sold at healthy margins.
With Android devices quickly eating up market share, especially as it gets applied towards the lower end of the market and cheaper devices, there is no way Symbian can last 5 years on its current code base.  For one thing, technology changes too quickly over even just 2 years.
  • Developer strategy based on Qt with primary focus on MeeGo, but providing a credible developer story for Symbian. Enable developers to make money by targeting the huge Symbian installed based while simultaneously offering their best user experience on the MeeGo platform. All this with a common developer ecosystem that allows writing and releasing software for both Meego and Symbian with minimal interoperability work.
Can you say fragmentation?  That's a huge lack of focus.  Optimists might call this market segmentation.  I'd say it's a waste of resources and a lack of leadership.

This Nokia Plan B thing has spawned some funny satires, especially given Nokia's roots.

Nokia Plan C

Nokia Plan D

Nokia Plan E

I see a lot of commentary across the web from both pundits and the average geek that while Nokia is great at hardware, they suck at software.  They've demonstrated that for a few years now.  Anecdotes from software developers are especially interesting.  Check out this particular one on the HN thread.  But more telling is the market.  Consumers voted with their feet and their wallets.  Nokia lost its ability to stay in front of its competitors: it couldn't deliver MeeGo and Symbian couldn't hold the fort.  Didn't these guys get the memo?  Elop's clearl shown where he stands, and it seems most commentators across the board agree with him.

I noted in my other post that it was interesting to see that Apple was a similar position in the past.  However, they were able to pull themselves out of their funk and became an innovation leader again.  However, let's clarify that the innovation didn't start within.  Apple acquired NeXT, which happened to be an operating system company founded by Steve Jobs after Jobs was excommunicated from Apple.  NeXT became the foundation for Apple's future Mac computers.  Apple could just as easily have bought another OS for the right price, and was actually in negotiations to purchase BeOS instead (also founded by a former Apple exec; gotta keep it in the family, huh?).  Steve Jobs having the effect that he did in later years was an unexpected bonus.  He didn't even become CEO again until years later.

So let's get it clear.  When Apple was in dire straits, even Apple didn't innovate from within.  They accessed 3rd-party innovation; it's only after they were on a solid base again that they looked to diversify themselves into new worlds with the iPod and then the iPhone.  The key difference here is that Nokia chose to partner with a software giant to access innovation, while Apple chose to acquire their innovation.  Whether Nokia made the right decision remains to be seen.  But given that they've proven they suck at managing and developing software, acquiring software innovation could quite possibly have ended up in failure (let's see if HP really can reap benefits from the Palm acquisition).  On the other hand, Microsoft has a pretty good record of getting things finally right on the 3rd or 4th try.  The time is ripe for Windows Phone 7 to finally shine, and a lot of reviews have been quite good.  Nokia can stick to the stuff where they excel, which is the hardware.

Now why didn't Nokia just go Android like everyone else?  When you're in dire straits, you go for the Hail Mary play.  You go against the norm to try to overtake the pack, not try to follow the pack.  You think Nokia would be able to out-execute the likes of HTC, Samsung, LG, and Motorola in the Android world, especially with the head start those companies have?  This is it.  You're at your own 10 yard line, 4th down, 30 seconds left in the game, other team is leading by 4 points.  You go for the Hail Mary pass in that situation.  Elop gets it. He knows he's standing on a burning platform.  And it doesn't hurt that Microsoft looks like it will give Nokia a ton of cash to make it worth their while.

Pity the angry investors who can't see the long-term trends, nor understand the technology issues.  They're pointing fingers at the wrong guy.

Update:  OK, this is getting out of hand.  :)

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