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More Nokia Woes (But they are not out yet…)

October 12, 2010

Following on from a very full-on hammering by John Naughton (which is worth reading) where he suggests that Nokia are living in a parallel world that has no iPhone and Android – now we get another bit of bad news…

Never mind Windows Phone 7, at least until this afternoon. What’s been happening at Nokia?

You’ll recall that Stephen Elop was drafted in from Microsoft’s Business division as chief executive when its previous chief executive’s Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo challenged the board to “back me or sack me”, to which the response was “actually, there’s been something we’ve been meaning to say…”

Since then the resignations and departures have come thick and fast. Anssi Vanjoki, head of Nokia Mobile, resigned, essentially because he hadn’t been offered the CEO job.

And now October’s outpourings: the vice-president in charge of its Linux-based MeeGo devices has resigned. Ari Jaaksi (for it was him) left before the company could get one of its next-OS-generation devices out of the door. The schedule had suggested that the first one would be out of the door by the end of this year. Now Nokia is saying that there will be “an update on MeeGo” before the end of the year. That’s not necessarily a device, though.

However I’d not write them off as yet – from from it. They have a lot of experience in the sector and that must count for something. A lesson from technology history: Before the Wii launched, lots of people were writing off Nintendo off as the Gamecube had not performed that well next to xbox and PS2 (though it was still profitable). Many of us thought gaming was becoming a two horse race… Then the DS Lite did really well and the Wii did amazing. So it is not over yet for Nokia – though they are going to have to work hard, as one former employee notes:

I used to call Nokia the Borg: create a product and it gets assimilated into this process, resistance is futile. Product mangers specify, and the rest just happens, a corporate pavlovian reaction that works well.

But good software is iteratively built. When I pushed for short iteration cycles for a project I led (that morphed into Ovi), it was exciting and new for Nokia (but old-hat for the folks we worked with in Silicon Valley). A classic problem at Nokia is locking specifications 2 years before a product is released. And that long-term cycle is ingrained at Nokia, even target setting is no shorter than 6 months, meaning at least a year to react to anything.

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