The Burning Platform
After nearly 150 years of non-stop entrepreneurship, Nokia is once again facing some tough challenges in its way. It has gone from the world's biggest cell phone maker to an underdog, desperately struggling to turn things around. Its cash piles are being rapidly burned through, as the company's products are no longer as attractive for consumers as they have once been. But how did it come to this, and could this be the end of a legendary company?
This is how it is in the modern cell phone business. One day you're on top, the other you realize you're standing on a burning platform, and you have to act quickly, otherwise you too will turn into ashes. This isn't some false theory put forth by Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO, it's the way things are, and the way things have been for Nokia for quite a while.
The problem should be that it's hard to be on the top. Not only because it's quite lonely there, but because you have to exert an extraordinary amount of effort, trying to keep your distance from the competition, while continuing to innovate and refine your products or performance. But for how long? No one can do it forever. Eventually, you start to lose your motivation, become tired, and little by little, the feeling that you're being surrounded by a hungry pack of hyenas begins to grow inside you, provoking other unhelpful feelings like fear and shame. These things can easily cloud your judgement and mess with your head, preventing you from being rational and productive, which is what you need to be in order to find your way out of a tough situation.
We guess something similar must have happened with Nokia about 5 years ago, when it was on top, but did not react accordingly to the changes that were taking place inside customers' heads. Did Nokia simply refuse to change itself, firmly convinced in the rightness of its plan, or did it experience those feelings of clouded judgement and fear that prevented it from embracing reality? We'll probably never know, but the fact is that Nokia waited and hesitated when it should have acted.
Finally, Stephen Elop came along in late 2010, announcing that the company was sitting on the burning platform that Symbian was. Indeed, the once innovative and powerful Symbian operating system has now become stale and unattractive for customers, most of whom had already switched their Symbian handsets for iPhones or Androids. Symbian was going the way of the dodo, and Elop had to act. There were four options ahead of him:
1. To continue developing MeeGo and phase Symbian out;
2. To go Android and phase Symbian out;
3. To go Windows Phone and phase Symbian out;
4. To start rebuilding Symbian from the ground up.
Love it or hate it, the man decided to go with what he felt closest to his heart, and that was Microsoft. It was what he knew, and what he felt could be taken most advantage of, due to his previous position. The problem with this was that at the time, Windows Phone was even smaller than Symbian itself. Sure, this is Microsoft we're talking about, so there were reasons to believe this will eventually change, but still, the move had "risk" written all over it. More than a year and a half later, Nokia is still waiting for the fruits of this partnership to grow.
One clear and unusually calm night, Nokia packed its stuff, walked to the edge of its burning platform, took a last look back, and then there it was, the next moment, falling towards the freezing waters of the Baltic Sea. With an audible thump that almost pierced the night, it fell right onto the Microsoft life-boat - a large, slow-moving vessel that was sure to reach its destination much later than the other boats. However, one of the things that attracted Nokia's attention was the unusually small crew of the boat. What an opportunity for Nokia this was! With so few people on board, it could easily stand out and earn itself a prominent position. The position that has been taken away from it... Surely this was a great opportunity to make use of its many talents. Soon, people were once again going to be talking about it, about Nokia, and this night would remain nothing but a distant memory, an event from its past that simply pushed it towards greatness once again.
Well, we presume it might not have been anything like that, and has been more like Stephen Elop just sitting on his desk, going through a bunch of boring papers and making a few phone calls, but anyways, this should be pretty close to explaining what Nokia saw in the Windows Phone OS. A fresh system with a solid base, and a strong partner in Microsoft, which was going to take care of the nasty stuff like building a developer community and creating an ecosystem of content. This way, it could just focus on what it did best - wonderful devices, and be the brightest star in the sky, for there were neither that many other starts, nor such that could shine as brightly.
Although we wouldn't completely reject the "Trojan horse" theory of Elop entering the system only to convert Nokia into Microsoft's manufacturing arm, we do believe that the state of MeeGo back then wasn't very promising. Yes, it was an almost complete platform which could run just fine, but at the end of the day, what more could it provide than the basic experience one could already get from a Symbian handset. And as it was already evident, that wasn't nearly enough for the new mobile user - the mobile user who wanted a fast, sleek device with a modern UI, loads of applications, service integration, regular software support, rich content ecosystem... The game had changed, and apparently Elop discovered that Nokia cannot learn the new rules quickly enough, so he decided to seek help from his previous employer.
Sure, Nokia could have jumped in the Google life-boat instead, but for some reason the management reached the conclusion that this wouldn't be a better decision in the long run. When you think about it, the Android manufacturers that are profitable and really successful aren't that many. Even HTC, which is a company that has this rare ability to just come up with lovely stuff, is having great difficulties. Android would have allowed Nokia to produce cheap handsets for the developing markets, one of Nokia's last strongholds, but history has shown that there's not much money in this, not enough for a giant company like Nokia, who wants to be up there with the best.
But there's usually loads of money where Microsoft is. Windows Phone is a long-term game. A game that is expected to pick up once Windows 8 is out. Using its substantial presence in the computer market, Microsoft will quickly introduce Windows 8, and so a certain extent Windows Phone 8 as well, since they have so much in common, which will suddenly change Windows Phone's status from a peculiar and young platform to a well-known, integrated experience. Coupled with Nokia's wonderful devices, this might just do it. Windows Phone should become the third biggest mobile platform with a relative ease. Whether or not there will be enough momentum in order to surpass what's going to be waiting ahead, though, is a tough question that only time can answer. We can be sure about one thing - what has a beginning, has an end. And just like Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) have once fought their way to the top, a time will come when they will have to make way for the new leader, just like Nokia had to step aside. Could this be Nokia again, riding on the wings of Windows Phone? We can go on and on with these questions, but there will be no answers.
The burning platform has now fallen, and where Nokia's business was once flourishing, other companies have found new ways of being successful. But as history has shown many times, Nokia will transform, rebuild its platform, better and stronger than before, and rise again. For to reach the top, you must start from the bottom.
7. Medel (Posts: 83; Member since: 31 May 2011)
that's good to hear i want a Nokia with android OS and it has a quad or dual core processor and pureview technology.
9. Medel (Posts: 83; Member since: 31 May 2011)
by the way, people who have Nokia 808 PureView is now available to update.http://www.symbiantweet.com/no
kia-belle-feature-pack-2-fixed-firmware-update-now-availablemine is updated now. more improvements! :)
54. smartphone (Posts: 160; Member since: 21 Oct 2011)
There is nothing wrong with going with android, but android is the one who brings Nokia's empire down they have two options. s
Submitt to android without fight.
Or put a fight by collbration with microsoft they choose the later and may be it will comeout as a wise decision we dont know now.
I really hope they will turn the wheel again.
nobody will benefit from Nokia's death but greedy companies who will sell craps calling it innovation.
58. iCandy (Posts: 45; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)
Or better yet, sell handsets and allow the buyer to select the OS of choice, whether it maybe Symbian, MeeGo, Android or WP. Pretty easy to arrange and it would have prevented Nokia from going 60 mph to 0 while it figures out the best route forward. Elop's decision was not based on the best short or long term solution, it was determined by his previous employment relationship with MS. The "burning company" experience of Nokia is just more ammunition to the philosophy that better business practices require an absence of bias and partiality.
63. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)
talk about wishful thinking man. but a Nokia NeXus would be epic. but anyway this article is written beautifully. nice work Ray.
66. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
Nokia+ Nexus i believe they would still use Dual-Core CPU, while other's are on QC.
118. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
Sony still uses Dual Cores and so does Motorola and many others. In fact the most common SoC in Android is a dual core (for now). Only a few high end devices have quad cores. ANd because every website keeps writing about these higher end devices it gives the perception that the Android world has moved on to quad core.
May I remind you that there is a vast difference between propaganda and the real world. In the real world most ppl are stuck on Gingerbread and single/dual cores with non-removable batteries, crappy displays (galaxy mini II the best sold galaxy). In fact I've seen more people with cheap galaxy 5xxx and mini's while the others all have iphones.
Of course its clear to me that iPhone users like to advertise this. Just go to a restaurant, the ones who put their phones on the table to show off are mostly iPhone users. Which is quite funny because a 3,5" iPhone can be kept in the pocket quite easily.
106. DeviantDroid (Posts: 51; Member since: 28 Apr 2011)
It would be EPIC to see Nokia make a Nexus Android device and see the reaction from Microsoft... Does microsoft really care anyways with the possibility of the surface phone?
13. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
not every companies that goes android wins. Let's just wait for WP to click. I want a larger competition not a crowded one. :)
18. maxican16 (Posts: 361; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
Great point. But I'm not saying to ditch windows.
I will say I have no doubt that their build quality would win over lots of people in the android community. Exclusivity limits sales for everyone. Unfortunately I think it's the carriers who are to blame for most of that. Except with Nokia.. they chose to get in bed with MS and limit their sale base. Bad move, period.
53. Mittal (Posts: 405; Member since: 14 Dec 2011)
Y couldnt they go the HTC and SAMSUNG way and cater to both ANDROID and WINDOWS ?
78. Danre (Posts: 85; Member since: 02 Sep 2012)
Totally agree with maxican16.
Android market share is nearly 70%.
May be in long run MS will gain something but nothing soon.
and It is business and business mean do right which is good for company.
26. SIGPRO (Posts: 317; Member since: 03 Oct 2012)
I hope Nokia will never choose Android, Because i don't know why people are so hyped about Android it's just not that good.
My ICS device lags and has bugs, a few weeks ago i compared the SG3 with the Lumia 900 and guess what the Lumia was snappier and faster with a single vs a quadcore. Can't wait till the Lumia 920 arrives i think it will kill the SG3. I will never buy a Android device again. I would buy a Meego/Symbian/WP device.
41. Whateverman (Posts: 3066; Member since: 17 May 2009)
If having "The Simplest and Snappiest" phone is what you want, go wp7 or iOS. If you like lots of features, customization, openess, the ability to install almost any app from anywhere, and can wait the extra .005 millisecond it takes for that app to open... Then Android is the best platform on the market. It's all about what works for you.
127. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
"JB is as fast as ios6 on ip5!"
... on the Galaxy S III or One X or LG 4X HD or optimus G or Asus padphone 2 etc...
NOT on the majority of Android phones which consist of LG L-series, Galaxy 5xxx-series, ZTE Oranges/pears/kiwis/lemons or equivalent.
The only cheap phone that's fast is a Nokia 701 with FP1 (and theme effects removed).
59. CanYouSeeTheLight (Posts: 539; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)
I don't get you, you say my ICS device but you don't state which device you have and then say you compared the Lumia to a SG3 of course the Lumia will win the Samsung Galaxy 3 it only has a 667mhz processor, if you were trying to say SGS3 which you failed to, i must say if you compared against a display model i don't know why but i also tried a SGS3 at a store and it was kind of laggy, i tried one on another store and it was perfectly smooth.
107. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
" I would buy a Meego/Symbian/WP device"
..then why haven't you bought one.
The Nokia 701 is an amazing little device and comes ridiculously cheap these days. It has the same 1,3GHz cpu as the 808 Pureview and is as snappy as a Lumia 800/900.
And then there is the 808...
38. Altair (Posts: 258; Member since: 02 Feb 2012)
Hah, just another dumb android troll who can't even type Android correctly.
50. maxican16 (Posts: 361; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
Somehow I missed that. Thanks for the correction.
Now how about a real response, not some troll bait.
52. protozeloz (Posts: 5191; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)
well the 920 with JB or ICS could outsell even the Galaxy S3 or at least be Top phone
132. ikkuh (Posts: 33; Member since: 22 May 2011)
Why? He just says it wouldnt be a bad choice.
Nokia could make an Android phone without making any sacrifice. Nokia makes wonderfull hardware.
40. atree (Posts: 23; Member since: 20 May 2011)
i could not agree more, i would love to have a nokia 920 on andriod, i just cant get into windows phone! To many things are exclusive to andriod that i like
Flash ( i watch south park on lunch and have to have flash)
Nokia makes absoultly amazing phones, however, they need to incrase their market base if they want to attract more customeres!!!
only ways to increase profit are higher reveune or lower costs, costs can only be cut so far before you start to feel the burn, so increase rev by adding andriod phones!! come on nokia!!!!
62. metalpoet (unregistered)
andriod? do you mean android?
67. maxican16 (Posts: 361; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
No, I meant ios.. O_o
Already mentioned I somehow missed it. ..........Some people. Granted, it looks worse cause that was my ONE WORD, haha.
130. metalpoet (unregistered)
64. TROLL (banned) (Posts: 4851; Member since: 13 Apr 2012)
i don't understan those 22people who thumbed you down for? Symbian is an open platform just like Android, so why would Symbian users migrate to closed Windows platform. Why would you leave freedom for? How weird....!
68. jroc74 (Posts: 3462; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Dont know why all the red thumbs.
Its a safe bet to go with Android right now. If I'm not mistaken....every WP manufacture is doing an Android phone expect Nokia.
With WP...it was a better move financially if things took off, but Android was still and still is the safer bet as far as exposure, market share.
75. jroc74 (Posts: 3462; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)
Exactly. I agree with this 100%.
I can bet if Motorola woulda done WP exclusively....and things didnt take off...they would be doing an Android phone next week.
Thats also one reason Motorola basically told MS to jump off a bridge about WP...their success with Android. Motorola has yet to do a WP.
81. Glim12808 (Posts: 344; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)
The problem for Nokia had they gone Android was not getting the USD 1B annually they got from MS. Why should Google give them that money when it was doing just fine without Nokia and only Samsung and HTC on-board?
Besides, I'm sure Nokia also looked at the Android landscape and saw how Motorola, Sony, LG etc. were loosing money in it.
But I'm also 100% sure of Nokia's back-up plan to switch to Android if Windows Phone 8 does not pick-up sales in 2013. It's there somewhere hidden from MS in the bowels of Nokia in Finland. But I'm sure MS knows this too, that's why there is a plan for the Surface Phone, not so hidden in the bowels of MS in Redmond.
84. pikapowerize (banned) (Posts: 1869; Member since: 03 May 2012)
they should do the samsung way... continue the support of symbian! adopt meego... make an android device 3 a year and also adopt WP!
98. weirdfisher (Posts: 51; Member since: 31 Mar 2011)
Nokia should use OiS or Windous Pone or Symbain
101. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
1) Why would Nokia use a competive linux based OS when they have (had) their own superior linux based OS?
2) If Nokia was to make Android handsets, what garantee is there that Nokia would be succesfull? Currently only Samsung seems to be succesfull while ALL the others are badly loosing money.
3) What would you do?
A) license Android and being sued to pay Microsoft a fee (like Samsung, LG and HTC do) or
B) just get the Windows Phone OS and be done with it (probably cheaper then the fee you have to pay if you´d have gone Android)?
Android is pitfall. The market is way to splintered with all those different SoC´s, different gpu, it takes ages for Google to optimize code or to cleanup bugs. Then it takes even longer for telco's send the improvements to customers. It's a mess.
I do think that when Nokia went for WP7 then they could have just license Android too and create all OS handsets. Including Meego and Symbian models alongside WP7 and Android devices. HTC does it (with Brew OS) and Samsung (with Bada). So I fail to see why Nokia couldn't. They could have gotten ALL! They're just too narrow-minded.
109. maxican16 (Posts: 361; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)
You clearly have no idea what you're talking about with some of your points.
137. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
If you are refering to my post. Then I must inform you I know very WELL what I'm talking about. In fact APPLE TOO is now suing Android handset makers! For even MORE money the MSFT does.
There's hardly any profit to be made on a Android handsets. I predict a massive abandoning of Android in the next 2 years. Just wait and see.
133. ikkuh (Posts: 33; Member since: 22 May 2011)
1. because Symbian has too little apps.
2. thats not the question. The question is: would they have a better chance. I think they do.
3. Android is a far better choice because of the half a billion user-base. No question about that. Nokia with Android is a great combination.
Windows 8 has a very long way to go. Nokia is almost dying...microsoft is making his own phone...well...the future of Nokia is clear isnt it?
138. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
READ my post.
1) Symbian is NOT a linux based OS. You obviously haven't read my post
2) YES that IS the question! Nokia NEEDS some success (especially after their incompetent CEO burned all their other bridges). And is it is now ONLY Samsung is having succes in the Android market. Nokia comming (too late) to the Android party wouldn't make a difference (especially not with regards to profits when they'd have to cough up to MSFT AND Apple for suspicious licenses)
3) A half-billion userbase of users whom don't spend a dime on those 'precious' apps. Whom expect every device to be rootable and hackable to sideload all the stuff cracked and hacked? Whom expect a Linux based OS to be FREE like Linux itself and thus the games and stuff needs to be free too. Oh puleese!
I don't like Nokia choosing WP either. I think they should have stayed with Meego and Symbian. Stick with the original plan AND STOP BEING SO BLOODY OBSESSED ABOUT APPS! The majority of phone users DON'T buy an app every 10 seconds!
Plus in the case of the iPhone it's LOGICAL that they have so much apps. Because their browser is so limited in what it displays (no flash remmember) that many companies made an App to circumvent that. So it's no surprise to find 'Apps' for newspapers and magazines while on e.g. a Nokia 701 you simply go to the newspaper WEBSITE itself (and thus DON'T need an app!)
BTW. Do you really think that Nokia is the only one in trouble? Look around they are ALL in trouble (except Apple and Samsung). Even MSFT is in trouble (why do they enforce the use of Metro/not-Metro in Windows 8). Why are they being so radical (while in the past they took small advances with every new itteration of their software)? I'll tell you: Because the brown stinky stuff is getting quite deep in Redmond!
129. mew7946510 (Posts: 55; Member since: 10 Nov 2010)
Moving to Android wouldn't be a wise choices since Android is open source and Nokia has no power in controlling it. Since they have no power in controlling it, they'll have to put heavy optimizations and customizations. These customizations will be open sourced to everyone. And because of that there is a VERY RISK OF SAMMY COPYING Nokia again..... Remember that Nokia sometimes make SOME(only SOME) ideas that are considerably innovative.
134. ikkuh (Posts: 33; Member since: 22 May 2011)
uuuhh..? risk? copying? hehehehe....are u for real? :)
Why would going Android make a difference?
139. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
Are you telling me that Nokia has power in controlling Windows Phone? Come on, wake up!
Soon the only thing their ceo's/shareholders can control is which door or window they choose on their way out.
136. tusshharish (Posts: 317; Member since: 23 Oct 2012)
who says burning we say it is hot...... ... ...
3. darkvadervip (Posts: 242; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)
All great companies rise and fall. I still love Nokia and if anybody paid attention Nokia mention this is the first wave of wp8 phones and more is to come with different designs other than the current one base on the n8.
102. epdm2be (Posts: 139; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
WP is fine for the American market but in Europe we don't want it. Contrary to popular propaganda!
4. No_Nonsense (Posts: 825; Member since: 17 Aug 2012)
ide.blogspot.in/2012/06/nokia-and-its-operating-system-dilemma.html, this was posted way before the 920 and 820 were unveiled but I thought it'd be a good share on this topic.
83. pikapowerize (banned) (Posts: 1869; Member since: 03 May 2012)
really awesome!! i would prefer meego and symbian!
31. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
no! no! no! ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY COMPLETELY SAY "LEGENDARY"!
It must be, legend....
wait for it..
dary! legendary! :)))))))))
6. Snoobab (Posts: 128; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)
"It has gone from the world's biggest cell phone maker to an underdog"
Exaggeration of the month. Nokia is in #3 position, far from an underdog.
17. Doakie (Posts: 594; Member since: 06 May 2009)
With its backward slide into irrelevancy they are definitely the underdog in this race. Even if they have a somewhat large current market share they're hemorrhaging into nothingness.
44. vivzek (Posts: 22; Member since: 03 Jul 2012)
That is mostly in the american and some more other markets. In many developing nations, Nokia is still the leader.
8. modyt (Posts: 22; Member since: 23 Aug 2012)
Symbian is a thing of the past. But if Nokia can concentrate on WP, I have a feeling it could win over the market. Personally, I feel WP is the next big thing. The freshness that Microsoft has induced in the mobile scene is gonna be hard to get over. And the platform itself is so polished. Also, having used the Lumia range, I for one know that Nokia has made the already polished platform much better by introducing apps like Nokia Maps, Transport, City Lens, etc. Even the designs and colours are so pleasing to the eye. Nokia had been at the top for a very long time and I am sure they will get close to it in the coming period very soon.
12. No_Nonsense (Posts: 825; Member since: 17 Aug 2012)
Symbian a thing of the past how? The last time I checked, Nokia is still supporting Symbian devices. And the FP2 update was re-seeded today. It'll become a thing of the past in a year or two but today its pretty much alive.
20. chaoticrazor (Posts: 2347; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)
Nokia are one of the best for supporting older phones, even with symbian been classed as dead it still been updated
and belle fp2 is an excellent OS, but too much hate for symbian on most phone sites
22. No_Nonsense (Posts: 825; Member since: 17 Aug 2012)
A plus one for the last line sir. My 808 will work even if Nokia doesn't support it. WIll update to FP2 a week later.
24. chaoticrazor (Posts: 2347; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)
ive been using fp2 for awhile now, its smooth fast and much more visually appealing with its menu transitions etc
and yeah lets face facts nokia's last longer then any other phone, i bet almost everyone has at least one old nokia lying round there house that still works.
29. chaoticrazor (Posts: 2347; Member since: 28 Aug 2012)
the old nokia dinosaurs will out live most of us i bet.
but as most nokia users know with great build quality comes great responsibility.............you drop your nokia you risk damaging the ground
all those cracks in the concrete are from nokia drops