Nokia: “We’re Not Even Fighting With the Right Weapons”

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Former head of Microsoft’s business division, Stephen Elop is now the CEO of Finnish cellphone maker Nokia. While he’s been in place since late last fall, Elop’s latest company-wide memo portrays a hard, cold, long look in the mirror at a company that once dominated the cell phone industry but is now “not even fighting with the right weapons.”

You can read the entire memo at Engadget, but here are some of the choice quotes that pertain to Nokia’s consumer initiatives:

While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind.

The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.

We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.

At the midrange, we have Symbian. It has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms. As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and further behind, while our competitors advance further and further ahead.

At the lower-end price range, Chinese OEMs are cranking out a device much faster than, as one Nokia employee said only partially in jest, ‘the time that it takes us to polish a PowerPoint presentation.’ They are fast, they are cheap, and they are challenging us.

And the truly perplexing aspect is that we’re not even fighting with the right weapons. We are still too often trying to approach each price range on a device-to-device basis.

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

Elop is expected to unveil some major changes inside Nokia this Friday. There’s been some speculation that the company may even partner with Microsoft to build Windows Phone 7 handsets, which would add some credence to the part in the last sentence quoted above as Nokia decides whether or not to “join an ecosystem.”

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