Elop: a Trojan horse, a scapegoat or a saviour?

Earlier this week there was – and not for the first time – the rumour that Nokia Finnish investors were considering gathering signatures to get CEO Elop sacked”, at least that's what PhoneArena.com wrote. Considering to gather something can hardly be considered to be news, so it looks like this was based on a blog by Tomi Ahonen, who worked for Nokia until 2001. He has a reputation to downright hate Stephen Elop, and will do just about anything to get him out – like this recent and rather long  open letter to the shareholders.

Whether or not this open letter has lead to “A forum discussion on Finnish business newspaper Kauppalehti”, as PhoneArena claims, I don’t know. I don’t read Finnish, but with Google's help I’ve looked at it on the site of the newspaper and I couldn’t find any discussion like it. Be that as it may, another blog subsequently asked its readers to vote whether they think Elop should leave Nokia or not. So in a way, mr. Ahonen’s open letter had some effect, since almost 90% in this poll decided he should leave.

People appear to have many different reasons to vote against Elop. He should never have abandoned Symbian in the first place. Nokia should have chosen Android as its next platform. Nokia should have chosen for MeeGo. And others blame Elop for the condition Nokia´s share is in now, since Windows Phone has not changed Nokia back into a succesfull company. Four reasons, all four different.

About completely leaving Symbian I´m a bit ambivalent. Personally I think it might have deserved at least a chance and the way Nokia Belle is working now confirms that, although people may still claim it is far behind the other three major mobile platforms. For countless reviewers even the newest version of Symbian is the most important reason to condemn the Nokia 808 PureView, although it is the best Symbian device ever.

But let´s not forget one important thing. It’s not Stephen Elop that made Nokia miss out on the most important evolution of smartphones: the touchscreen. Nokia, being too slow in realizing that the touchscreen was what people really wanted, left that road wide open to Apple. And you never give Apple anything without being very sorry you did afterwards.

The first attempts of a smartphone with a touchscreen OS – the Nokia N97 in 2008 – proved to be no less than disastrous for Nokia’s reputation. Already the neverending software problems with the N96 earlier that year did an incredible amount of damage. This was the same year that Apple brought the iPhone 3G.  So one can impossibly claim it is Elop that brought Symbian to its grave – it was Nokia’s management at the time (Ahonen left in 2001 already, but he knows this too, no doubt).

As for the other two platforms. Choosing Android in all honesty looks like a dead end road for Nokia to me: already too many manufacturers are producing devices in all price segments: what could Nokia possibly add to that? What would set Nokia apart from a big crowd that is already completely dominated by Samsung to begin with?

It’s a bit like starting a new blogsite about Android (or iOS for that matter): it’s almost useless, there are already way too many. The strong wish to offer customers a good alternative for Google and Apple moreover, is something I completely understand, since both have a worldwide reputation of being a bit too interested in their user's personal data.

This good alternative according to some could have been MeeGo, but I’m not sure what MeeGo had to show for more than one smartphone, although many believe it is the best one ever produced in smartphone history. I have a Nokia N9 in my collection and although I completely get what people admire about it – it is a unique piece of technology, no doubt about it - I also understand the choice not to follow this road.

MeeGo only seems simple to those who already are familiar with this kind of technology, and it takes quite a while to get acquainted to it. Different from Apple’s iOS, for instance, that is far easier and more intuitive – like it or not. And very different from Apple's ecosystem, there's not much else that's on MeeGo.

Choosing for a brand new Windows Phone seems a far more audacious step, since it’s even newer as MeeGo. But look at the long term of this strategic collaboration. Microsoft is a huge partner worldwide, and although Windows Phone 7 does not look much like Windows 7, Windows Phone 8 will appear to be almost exactly the same as Windows 8 on PC's, laptops and tablets. And in general people use a Windows PC device if they’re not on a Mac, right? To them, using Windows Phone will feel completely natural.

So building an ecosystem together with Microsoft, where hardware, software and services are as strongly intertwined as Apple succeeded in doing, seems like a very reasonable choice to me. It really makes for a brand new start the company needs so desperately. The only disadvantage might be that Nokia has too little control over the way and pace in which Microsofts develops it's mobile platform. But Nokia already made some great contributions to it - much more than any other smartphone producer ever did in fact.

I am no programmer so I have no idea how hard it is, but Nokia has already succesfully ported many of its fantastic apps to Windows Phone. The Nokia Collection in the Marketplace is impressive with Maps, Drive, Transport, City Lens (although still in Beta). Nokia Music is much better than it has ever been on Symbian. Of course, I (and all readers of this site with me) hope for the innovative PureView and Rich Recording technologies to also be part of the first new Nokia on Windows Phone 8.

So the open letter (from someone who has left the company 11 years ago), calling for signatures to get Elop out of Nokia is – in my opinion – preposterous. And to simply use that letter and the rumours following it to think of a poll to have readers (for whatever reasons they might have) decide whether Elop can stay or should be fired, is remarkable to say the least. But as I was there, I filled in the poll and you now know how I voted, and why.

Elop has been accused by many of being a "Trojan horse", put in the heart of Nokia by Microsoft to bring the company to its knees and make it easy for Microsoft to buy it. But Nokia was in a terrible state already. Many are using Elop as a scapegoat, blaming him for the current state that mostly has to do with developments that started long before he was even near the company.

Will Stephen Elop be Nokia’s saviour? Time will tell, but firing Elop now is unthinkable unless you have something to gain with the subsequent complete chaos within Nokia. And I’m getting the impression some people do, and they’re not filling in polls. A financial analyst wrote last week Nokia’s share might have hit rock bottom in july – so Nokia is still not out of the danger zone, but its resurrection seems to have slowly started. About time, for everyone.

PS  It´s not the first time Nokia struggles for survival. Years ago I published a  Nokia history I regularly updated. Although it’s in Dutch, I hope Google will help you out in your own language if you're interested.

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