The Burning Platform

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Burning Platform
Nokia is a remarkable company. It has walked the long, long road from being a single pulp mill in 1865, to a telecommunications giant in the early 21st century. Named after the small Finnish town of Nokia, the company has gone through a number of tough moments in its history, but it has always found a way to go on and swing its way back to the top.

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.



1. maxican16

Posts: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

I have one word for you Nokia: ANDRIOD.

7. Medel

Posts: 84; Member since: May 31, 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: 84; Member since: May 31, 2011

by the way, people who have Nokia 808 PureView is now available to update. mine is updated now. more improvements! :)

54. smartphone

Posts: 160; Member since: Oct 21, 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: 46; Member since: Dec 07, 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.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Nokia+ Nexus i believe they would still use Dual-Core CPU, while other's are on QC.

118. epdm2be

Posts: 816; Member since: Apr 20, 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: Apr 28, 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: Apr 30, 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: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 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: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

Y couldnt they go the HTC and SAMSUNG way and cater to both ANDROID and WINDOWS ?

78. Danre

Posts: 85; Member since: Sep 02, 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.


Posts: 2810; Member since: Oct 03, 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: 3295; Member since: May 17, 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.

61. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

JB is as fast as ios6 on ip5!

127. epdm2be

Posts: 816; Member since: Apr 20, 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: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 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: 816; Member since: Apr 20, 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: 367; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Hah, just another dumb android troll who can't even type Android correctly.

50. maxican16

Posts: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

Somehow I missed that. Thanks for the correction. Now how about a real response, not some troll bait.

52. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

well the 920 with JB or ICS could outsell even the Galaxy S3 or at least be Top phone

132. ikkuh

Posts: 42; Member since: May 22, 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: 25; Member since: May 20, 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) Google currents google maps 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: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 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

touche :)


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 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: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 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 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.

71. Peter98

Posts: 119; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

Do both

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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