Former Nokia exec: "I did not see a good reason to change course so frantically"
Nokia is in its worse shape right now, undergoing what seems to be the toughest times of its transition to Windows Phone for its main platform, but what scares former Nokia executive Lee Williams is the lack of any strategy besides WP, and current Nokia head Stephen Elop acting more like a financial director rather than the CEO that will lead the Finns out of the gutter.
Williams who ran the Symbian Series 60 platform between 2006 and 2009, gave a detailed interview for CNET. He was also the executive director of the Symbian Foundation.
"As an arm chair quarterback, it is clear to me that Elop is struggling. The results speak for themselves," Williams said. And the latest credit rating downgrades only confirm that - Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch have all downgraded the Finnish company, and most recently Fitch gave its stock a junk rating.
"Those credit ratings are a huge deal for them," Williams added. "If they can't borrow and move money -- wow! There's very little for them to do. Because they're the world's largest distributed manufacturer highly dependent on that movement and those credit ratings, and cash and bank."
But what’s most troubling in the former Nokia exec view is that Stephen Elop, the current CEO, is not taking the position of an inspirational leader. Instead, he’s acting more towards cutting cost and optimizing workforce, and what we see on the surface seems to confirm those observations:
"Elop is operating like a CFO [chief financial officer] -- CFOs are very practical, always looking at costs, always internally focused... I don't think he's really projecting anything forward or sitting around with his team imaging what the future looks like. I think it's 's**t how do I get rid of a third of this overhead in R&D?'."
"I did not see a good reason to change course so frantically," Williams summed up Nokia’s transformation to Windows Phone.
"I don't think Nokia was going in the wrong direction with some of the things it was doing -- it was simply executing poorly before Elop got there and they weren't giving it enough time. He lost his talent and he's bringing junior people out of Microsoft into key roles and positions, especially in sales. Inventory in a company for anybody but the CFO is talent. For the CFO it's not talent, it's assets, IP, offices -- so again Elop's acting like a CFO."
He nails his point by comparing current struggling Windows Phone sales to sales of Symbian.
"Symbian is shipping on around 20 million new units a quarter as of today. When I was at the company it was responsible for seven of 10 of Nokia's highest gross margin products. Think of those volumes. There were dozens of products that shipped in the tens of millions. "For some perspective, everyone is thinking Lumia and Windows Phone when they look at Nokia now, and from what I can tell they have yet to have a product with this configuration ship close to two million units."
The former executive realizes that Symbian couldn’t carry Nokia through these very competitive times, but he points out it fares better in battery life and imaging than Nokia’s Lumia lineup. Nokia’s handset revenues are still hugely dependant on Symbian, and last quarter’s decline in Symbian sales had an immediate devastating effect for Nokia with revenues from devices taking an unprecedented plunge.
Former Nokia executive Williams has a couple of ideas of how the Finns can get out of the gutter, and interesting ideas about Android and other options that were open to Espoo. Check out the interview below for a full picture of what could save the Finns, and let us know whether you agree or not in the comments below.