My Photo

Ordering Information

Tomi on Twitter is @tomiahonen

  • Follow Tomi on Twitter as @tomiahonen
    Follow Tomi's Twitterfloods on all matters mobile, tech and media. Tomi has over 8,000 followers and was rated by Forbes as the most influential writer on mobile related topics

Book Tomi T Ahonen to Speak at Your Event

  • Contact Tomi T Ahonen for Speaking and Consulting Events
    Please write email to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com and indicate "Speaking Event" or "Consulting Work" or "Expert Witness" or whatever type of work you would like to offer. Tomi works regularly on all continents

Tomi on Video including his TED Talk

  • Tomi on Video including his TED Talk
    See Tomi on video from several recent keynote presentations and interviews, including his TED Talk in Hong Kong about Augmented Reality as the 8th Mass Media


Blog powered by Typepad

« Nokia Surprises Us by Releasing Q4 Smartphone Results Early. So 3% for Q4 and 5% for full year 2012? And they think this is 'good' ??? | Main | Countdown to Mobile Moment - When Will Mobile Phone Accounts Outnumber Humans? I say July 2013 (we are at 6.7B already) »

January 11, 2013


Kikin Sipit

I was afraid when I heard the news that nokia was gonna hire somebody from ms. at that time, I have decided not to buy a windows mobile/windows phone from nokia right away. although nokia built a marvellous piece of hardware, the OS is such a turn off for me (due to bad experience with wm)


What's interesting in that context is that Nokia changed its Symbian strategy beforehand. They aborted the "each phone gets a new incompatible Symbian version" and "older phones get no updates" strategy. Nokia's new Symbian strategy was to have one, the same Symbian version for all phones, extend that Symbian version step by step and push updates to already sold devices.

The N8 is a prime example. Its supported so long like close to no other mobile device. Anna, Belle, Carla, Dora. 4 major updates in years.

Thing what that strategy-shift means. How customers would love it. Just try the N8 running Belle. It is not only competative but its very good. Tgey moved it close to the MeeGo design philosophy, performance, battery, features. Combine that with what you have to pay for a N8 today, with innovations like the 808 real pureview.

Those who say Symbian was going to lose should just try the 808 running Belle for a while. Forget its Symbian and what press wrote about Symbian (just like you may already forget what they wrote about the 3th ecosystem Windows Phone). Just use it for a while and you will see why it was selling so well (unlike WP) and why customers buy it (unlike WP) and why once they had it they would buy next time one too (unlike WP).


All those bad press about Symbian. Why? Mysterious or was that for the same reason we read so much bad press about RIM right before Microsoft contacted them end of last year to get another exclusive WP partnership going. Also why is that that Microsoft "exclusive" strategic partners always with those who have an alternate OS right before launch? Double-win?



>> All those bad press about Symbian. Why?

You gave the answer yourself:

>> the "each phone gets a new incompatible Symbian version" and "older phones get no updates" strategy

Such a stragegy can only end in failure. Let's be honest here. Symbian had its flaws. Nokia has made big mistakes (N97 anyone?) Of course this could be seen in sales numbers and bad press.

So that's why it was changed. And how long did they execute it?

Yes, precisely 4 months! Not enough to register as an improvement so in the back of the head of many people Symbian remained that ugly beast that didn't want to work with other iterations of itself.

One can't help but wonder what would have happened if they had the new strategy play out instead of pressing the panic button

Conspiracy theory

I remember Finnish Sonera.


To be fair one should mention that most Symbian releases were somewhat 'feature complete'. I still have a N95 in use and allthough I never received a major update I do not feel lacking anything. Be it multitasking, copy and paste, proper bluetooth support, messaging support or client software - all was there. There was no need to receive an update to receive an usable system, and I never depended on an update.

And now take a look at for instance Windows Phone, Version 7. There was nothing, no multitasking, no proper bluetooth support, no copy and paste. All of this had to be added as an incremental update.

This are two different design philosophies: Give All / Update Nothing vs. Give Nothing / Update All.

It is a bit unfair to compare (some of) Symbian to what we have now, a 'rolling release' of operating systems.



'Feature complete' is a relatively useless term. Before the rise of the app it really didn't matter - but would you want to develop apps for a platform where you got 10 devices with 10 different sets of quirks and bugs? I sure wouldn't. For development it's a complete show stopper.


But we were talking about consumer reception, not developer reception, weren't we? ;-)


The real problem with Symbian wasn't that it couldn't be good but that it was very time consuming and expensive to make it good. It was an aging platform that simply wasn't designed for many modern features (touch, gpu, large screen resolutions, etc.) and adding each of these took forever and by the time they were out, they were already a cycle behind the fast moving front runners. The N8 was horribly delayed (at least 6 months from announcement) and it took until Belle to truly be close to a modern smartphone (and it still was missing key features). A truly viable version of QT wasn't available until spring of 2011, well after the February 11 announcement.



Well, "We may not succeed in transitioning over time our installed base of Symbian owners to our Windows Phone smartphones." is one of the risks found in the 20-F, so - of course - the plan was to transition the Symbian users to Windows Phone. And ""We expect the transition to Windows Phone as our primary smartphone platform to take about two years." - which is now.

I mean, we are not talking about just 95% or 90% or 80% or even 60% - we are talking about 7% (!) here. Now saying that "but it was never promised that all of the Symbian users should be transitioned" is quite ridiculous, isn't it?


Tomi> Its about time for the Nokia Board to wake up and fire this Microsoft Muppet.

do you think there are any reasonable people left on that board? wouldn't they have insisted on a "dual-strategy" with Windows Phone in combination with Nokia's own systems (Meego/Symbian) to see what platform would sell better? it seems like they have gone "all-in" with Windows at this point, hopefully i'm wrong..

now that Nokia stands for the major part of Windows Phone sales, it does seem highly unlikely that Microsoft would let Nokia go bankrupt; that would pretty much leave Microsoft with no real "partners".


@Tomi : it's not the first time you say Elop failed its strategy and should be fired, and prove it with hard numbers.

So the question should better be : why, with even the hard numbers in front of their eyes, the people in charge of hiring and firing Elop fail to accept the same conclusion ?

John Phamlore

The new world order's business axioms for companies such as Nokia (or HP or Dell, etc.) can be summed as as: own stuff, make stuff. And it doesn't hurt to have some big government have one's back.

The unprecedented collapse at Nokia was the complete absence of a strategy for producing its own modern ARM SoC or for producing its own LTE baseband chipset, preferably with support both for FDD-LTE and TD-LTE.

Just compare what Nokia's competitors did and see where Nokia fell short.

Samsung has its own ARM processor Exynos, is developing its own LTE chipsets, and owns its own fabs. Samsung owns stuff, makes stuff, and its homebase Korean government allows it to grow unchecked as a virtually unregulated chaebol.

Huawei through HiSilicon has its own ARM-based K3 chipset and its own multimode LTE chipset:

Of course Huawei also has the full support of the Chinese government as the Chinese leverage their legacy TD-SCDMA and future TD-LTE on China Mobile to compel Western companies to cross-license IP. Huawei apparently has some sort of cross-license agreement with Qualcomm.

"Qualcomm has some kind of patent cross-license agreement in place with Huawei that appears to include a covenant not to sue Qualcomm's customers over patents implemented by the American company's baseband chips."

That cross-license agreement is worth real money--it cost Nokia approximately $2.3 USD in 2008 to get Qualcomm to go away.

Even Apple at least got into the game of designing their own ARM processors, for example buying PA Semiconductor. And even Google wound up having to buy a huge chunk of what used to be Motorola.

Pre-2010 Nokia was headed in completely the opposite direction from the strategies used by today's rising players, Samsung, Huawei, Qualcomm, Apple, Google etc. Nokia was in the process of losing their fab partner Texas Instruments, and Nokia had sold off the IP that could have been used to develop their own LTE baseband chipset. That Nokia failed to anticipate the need to own stuff, make stuff, and it paid the price.



Current prices on Amazon (USA): Lumia 800 (black, 16gb) $279.34; Lumia 900 (black) $289.00; N900 (32gb) $367.00; N8 (grey) $389.00; N9 (black 64gb) $350.99. So the N9, the N8 and the N900 are all more valuable than more recent Lumia efforts to consumers judging by market price.



> So that's why it was changed. And how long did they execute it?
> Yes, precisely 4 months! Not enough

Exactly. Everybody is able to see how Symbian's evolution lead us up to Belle which is really good. That after the investment was shut down, after Symbian was burned and after Nokia ('s Elop) made clear there eill be no more Symbian phones.

I think this strategy shift addressed a huge chunk of the problems Symbian had (and yet was still number 1 even with that problems). I think Nokia's management made somemvery good decisions. That Symbian strategy shift, MeeGo and Meltimi.

Its sad all that was aborted before it played out. Its so sad that the new management jumped off what was build up decades lobg and made tge comoany number 1 down into the rounding-error below the oceans "surface". Its sad that before jumping the management burned everything above "surface" and its even more sad there are people left who try to sell the situation as win, as opportunity, as improvement. That cold water will turn into gold! See, it already started and you can't feel your legs any longer cause of the gold below them!


> How come you stick with the "1 to 1 transition to Symbian" (using unit sales as measurement) when no such thing was ever promised?

Because the 1:1 transition was the goal, the target, the optimum. This, the Symbian market share, was the asset, the pot of gold, the real value Nokia had. This market share is what they offered to Microsoft, what they had on the table to negotiate with.

And the lost near all of that. Its a total disaster. Now Nokia sits alone on that rable with nothing on it any longer while Microsoft moved ob to other tables. "Good bye Nokjia, was a nice nightm I will call you tomorrow (not)".


> It was an aging platform

Every platform is aging.

> that simply wasn't designed for many modern features

No platform was. Even not Android (first versions or before Linux+Stack which Android is based up on). Hey, the base of Android wasn't even designed to run on ARM or run graphical user interfaces. Same for iOS's base.

Requirements and usage change constantly and so you need constantly drive your OS future. Look at DOS=>Windows 3=>Windows 95=>NT=>etc. WP8 for example had its roots (indirect) in a OS bought for $50k from a hobby dev and was designed to never ever need more then 650KB RAM.

> touch

See above and buy a N8 (they are cheap!) to try out yourself.

> gpu

Symbian supports OpenGL (running on GPU) since a while. WP still does not till today.

> large screen resolutions

Android did hot support it too. It only came with v3, which was unusable, and became usable with v4 which was released recently. iPhone still has HUGE problems with that.

> etc.

What etc?



> why, with even the hard numbers in front of their
> eyes, the people in charge of hiring and firing Elop fail to accept the
> same conclusion ?

Because Elop did one thing very well: He made sure Nokia cannot just leave his way.

He not left bridges, he burned them. As soon as there was something Nokia could utilize as alternate to the WP all-in strategy he burned it.

Nokia has no alternate left. R&D shut down, all talent on any level left, alternates ways burned, cash problems, partners and carriers posioned, different contractual bindings, a junk rating and bad management on all levels.

It needs time to repair that. Firing Elop can only be the first step (but needed to get reconstruction started). Its needed to replace much of the upper management that is responsible for this situation. They nitmlike to be replaced. If there is a 0.01% possibility left to stay they will try. If Nokia dies on that try is not the most important aspect.

Gambling. Even if you lost everything you will continue cause tomorroe you will win. This is what Elop keeps on to tell us. Next quarter, one more try, tomorrow it will all turn around!

John Phamlore


There was simply no suitable hardware platform for a successor to the N9:

"In October 2008 Texas Instruments announced that they would stop investing in smartphones’ baseband modems ... For Nokia this meant the end of the TI OMAP path for MeeGo ... The alternatives to the OMAP 3 line SoCs by TI were Qualcomm and Intel, of which Nokia ended up opting for Intel ... An interviewee described the decision concerning Intel as a disaster, however Qualcomm probably had not prioritized MeeGo very high compared to other projects such as Android and Windows Phone ... When Nokia was making their future hardware choice after TI’s OMAP, Intel didn’t have proper plan or schedule for LTE support."

Observe that since 2010, Apple has switched from Infineon (purchased by Intel) to Qualcomm baseband chipsets, Microsoft Windows Phone is exclusive to Qualcomm chips, and RIM is apparently in the process of switching to Qualcomm. Even Samsung has produced versions of its phones that use Qualcomm chips while using its own elsewhere internationally.


@Spawn. I do have an N8, nice hardware, great camera, weak CPU and memory (C: partition, yikes!), took up to a year after I got it to have a fully touch UI (Belle) and still no support for multiple Exchange accounts. I certainly understand that things change, but often platforms get to the point where it's better to start from scratch than keep trying to make an old dog do new trick. MS switched from DOS to NT Kernel, Apple changed to a BSD kernel, MS went from WinCE to NT kernel on on WP8, RIM is changing to QNX. Adding GPU, touch, and QT to Symbian all took unacceptably long to add to the platform.


Yay Baron95 is back.... Since when is ASHA a smartphone?
I guess you better dump Nokia before the Blackberry launch.



>> MS switched from DOS to NT Kernel, Apple changed to a BSD kernel, MS went from WinCE to NT kernel on on WP8, RIM is changing to QNX.

True, but there's one crucial difference:

All the successful transitions were not done by obsoleting the old system but by a gradual migration.

Windows from DOS to NT, for example, went through several years of intermediate systems that ensured that software continues to work. Why, do you think, was Windows 95 introduced, instead of going to the NT kernel right away? Yes, right, because otherwise lots of people would have sat there, unable to run their legacy programs anymore and cursing at Microsoft.
But at the time the NT kernel was introduced for home users with XP they already had 6 years to get versions of their software that used the Win32 API so the percentage of problem cases had been reduced dramatically.

Compare that to an abrupt jump to a completely different platform. You won't have any customer loyalty there because nothing they had will work with the new device. Instead of choosing your next product they'll choose the one they like best, no matter who manufactured it.

That's why Nokia would have needed the migration path, first introducing Qt on Symbian, ensuring that newly developed software is future proof, and then later introducing MeeGo as a successor platform that can be smoothly transitioned to.
No such luck with WP. Users just chose the closest thing in the market to Symbian, which happened to be Android because for them there was no more harm in leaving Nokia behind as opposed to sticking with Lumia.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Available for Consulting and Speakerships

  • Available for Consulting & Speaking
    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Helsinki but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

Tomi's eBooks on Mobile Pearls

  • Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising
    Tomi's first eBook is 171 pages with 50 case studies of real cases of mobile advertising and marketing in 19 countries on four continents. See this link for the only place where you can order the eBook for download

Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009

  • Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009
    A comprehensive statistical review of the total mobile industry, in 171 pages, has 70 tables and charts, and fits on your smartphone to carry in your pocket every day.

Alan's Third Book: No Straight Lines

Tomi's Fave Twitterati