Irate Former Symbian Chief Trashes Android, Nokia, Microsoft
April 26, 2012 12:30 PM
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Former SVP says Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has "No...vision"; argues Android isn't open or functional
world's top maker of both smartphones
, these days Finland-based phonemaker Nokia Oyj. (
) can only wait and hope for a turnaround. The company was facing sliding sales and criticism that its smartphone operating system, Symbian, couldn't keep up with the young guns of the mobile world -- Google Inc.'s (
) Android and Apple, Inc.'s (
) iOS. In response, Nokia's board made a bold gamble importing former Microsoft Corp. (
executive Stephen Elop
as its CEO and allowing him to
forge a pact with Microsoft
to adopt Windows Phone.
I. Ex-Nokia Exec "Hates on" Android, Showers Defunct Symbian OS With Praise
While there are some promising signs
in terms of hardware
of late, the
have been pretty ugly and have called Nokia's
decision to ditch Symbian
-- or at least how it's executed that plan -- into question.
a ranting interview
, a clearly outraged Lee Williams -- former Nokia SVP of the early Series 60 smartphones (2006-2009) and
later Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation
(2009-2010) -- vented his frustrations at his former employer's decision to scrap Symbian, which he sees as a big mistake. He also used the interview as a platform to express some unusual views, attacking the operating system world's top players as incompetent in various ways and arguing that Nokia's Symbian is the ultimate operating system."
Mr. Williams, who now is a partner a SourceBits, a San Francisco mobile consulting firm, comments, "I did not see a good reason to change course [from Symbian] so frantically...I don't think Nokia was going in the wrong direction with some of the things it was doing -- it was simply executing poorly before Elop got there and they weren't giving it enough time. Symbian was Nokia's cash-cow -- Elop sacrificed it."
Lee Williams, former Symbian chief, claims Nokia is making a mistake. He argues that Microsoft's Windows Phone and Google's Android are losers, and that Symbian is a winner.
[Image Source: World of Phones]
The former Symbian chief argues Nokia would have been better served pledging to primarily support Symbian, but perhaps dabbling in Windows Phone.
He would approve of Nokia going to Microsoft's competitor Google even less, though. He had harsh words for the
world's most used smartphone operating system
, which he accuses of not being open and lacking functionality to -- you guessed it --
He jabs, "Android is a less capable offering than a few options that still exist within Nokia. It's certainly not what I would refer to as an open system. More than that, I think that Nokia has little opportunity to differentiate here in the near term…"
He bemoans, "Symbian is shipping on around 20 million new units a quarter as of today. When I was at the company it was responsible for seven of 10 of Nokia's highest gross margin products. Think of those volumes. There were dozens of products that shipped in the tens of millions."
II. Microsoft, Nokia CEO Elop, and Nokia Board Chairman Also Get Attacked
The bitter former executive throws dirt on Microsoft's
upcoming Windows Phone 8
. After arguing that the new OS won't be a market changer, he attacks Microsoft's general track record, commenting, "[E]verything 'Windows 8' has a big question mark on it right now, and it should be this way. Microsoft is notoriously late on delivery..."
He accuses Nokia CEO Stephen Elop of ruining the company. He comments, "As an arm chair quarterback, it is clear to me that [Nokia CEO Stephen] Elop is struggling. The results speak for themselves. Elop hasn't delivered a roadmap. He's been there for two to three years and there's really no roadmap," says Williams. "There's no overarching vision for this company. That to me is akin to stepping completely out of the leadership role and running behind the bus now."
Mr. Williams predicts that Nokia will eventually come back to
Symbian after realizing that it's the best. [Image Source: GizMag]
The issue provokes Mr. Williams so much that he vents about the strategy, stating, "Elop is operating like a CFO [chief financial officer] -- CFOs are very practical, always looking at costs, always internally focused... I don't think he's really projecting anything forward or sitting around with his team imaging what the future looks like. I think it's 's**t (sic) how do I get rid of a third of this overhead in R&D?"
And he's not above crowing about the
recent Nokia credit downgrade
to junk status, commenting, "Those credit ratings are a huge deal for them. If they can't borrow and move money -- wow! There's very little for them to do. Because they're the world's largest distributed manufacturer highly dependent on that movement and those credit ratings, and cash and bank."
III. Former Symbian Chief Predicts Nokia Will Come Crawling Back
The controversial analyst predicts that in six months to a year Mr. Elop will be booted and Nokia will undergo a "course correction" "back in the direction of [Symbian]."
While most of Mr. William's vehemence seems to be directed at Nokia it's impressive that he managed to claim that the world's top smartphone OS maker (Google) wasn't putting out a competent product and that the
world's top personal computer OS maker
(Microsoft) can't make a deadline.
On the one hand Nokia is indeed in a lot of trouble and one has to wonder if there isn't some truth in parts of Mr. Williams' frustrated diatribe. But at the same time some of his statements make him appear a bit out of touch with the reality that Microsoft and Google are the top dogs in the operating systems industry (along with Apple). It seems pretty unlikely that Nokia will turn back to
the Symbian "burning platform"
-- but that won't stop Symbian's ex-director from wishing Nokia would.
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RE: What is he smoking?
4/27/2012 1:27:01 PM
Yeah, he's got some of RIM's stash for sure. SymbianOS had the market, and it lost the market, long before Elop showed up. It simply wasn't competitive, and like BlackBerryOS, Nokia didn't see the need to make it competitive.
On the other hand, he's spot on about Elop. That guys made some of the worst business decisions in technology since Adam Osborne killed his computer company with way-too-early pre-announcements of the Next Big Thing.
Only, Elop cut the throat of SymbianOS before the Windows 7 Phone devices were even in the works. And before Windows 7 Phone itself was a success.. and in fact, that still hasn't happened. Maybe it will, maybe not. But where's the sense it cancelling your current, popular product today, when the replacement won't even be ready for two years.. and possibly not successful for five or more.
RE: What is he smoking?
4/30/2012 8:50:42 AM
Qt is a modern framework and it was ready when Elop killed the Symbian+MeeGo strategy. They showed new UX's and showed that they could deliver (say beyond the N8). They also lost any hardware-partners and collaboration for new platforms. Starting over from a point where they have no influence and lags behind even Nokias own products. Remember Nokia is an actual manufacturer, they have their own factories churning out hundreds of millions of phones. Of course everything crashes if you have a platform that sold over 100 million units every year and then replaces it with a platform that sold worse then individual Nokia phones and S40 (Nokias old feature OS) that we thought the world would move away from (and they do) just hoping for a expansion that will never happen even if your the eternal optimist, Nokia a manufacturer not brand can't support that kind of change and it's a big change to become like the small players of Motorola and Sony Mobile in volumes. No development, no sales and just put together Microsoft/Qualcomm platforms can't support a company that had 60 000 employees when Elop stepped in, they are lucky if they can support a 20 000 employees company. Finland certainly wasn't ready to do this before any sales did go down which they didn't until after Elop. Symbian was the only smartphone platform developed outside of North America, Qt was an excellent and still is an excellent application framework for development. You can still do lots on Symbian that you can't even do on Mango.
Nokia needed their own platform, they can't take market-share from Android or simply Apple and creating a market share for someone elses product where the buyer can simply buy a Chinese, Taiwanese, American, Indian or whatever handset that is essentially the same isn't helping. If they aren't developing products themselves they have no future. Sales of over 400 million won't be achieved just going for higher prices S40 handsets and WP7 handsets. Killing the entire company to steal it's brand before any financial trouble (Mobile devision was subsidizing their network business!) is ridiculous and only someone from North America can phantom. Nokia needed a broader strategy to really get rid of feature phones, and they had already drove Symbian pretty low Belle handsets where in the middle even the new Lumia 610 is priced higher. I don't get their strategy of simply driving up S40 handsets to 130 EUR. Nokia 500 with Belle is available for 100 EUR now, but it's pretty invisible thanks to Nokias strategy even though it runs Qt, it's easy to port over games and so on. (Games needs to be completely rewritten for C#/XNA on Windows Phone). Trying to replace Symbian with S40 and marginalizing their strongest product (while it is still developed) is not that smart. Neither does the cost go away when your still releasing new stuff on Symbian that you need to maintain it was also already paid for as regards to all the newer functions. QtMobility has complete support for everything including NFC since a year back. It's complete. WP isn't that complete. Stuff like Nokia 808 is only possible when you got your own OS for the high-end. Simply giving away your asset of navigational expertise and access to their maps company that is worth billions (Navteq) isn't worth it when Microsoft isn't paying them tens of billions. It's really the wrong company to dismantle just to push WP. Nokia never reached the Palm/HP stage or the Blackberry stage. They had a modern OS, they didn't need to replace their fundamentals and had a modern mobile application framework to build their platform around. They needed to deliver on the UX and visual changes (Symbian^3 had already delivered on being a proper modern smartphone platform with multitouch, new application/developer platform, modern usage and so on.). The Canadians started over with Playbook with a modern OS and building up a platform from scratch. Which means they virtually has nothing before Blackberry 10 is out. Nokia still had a modern platform they did update. Old Symbian legacy was just that legacy since a couple of years. Symbian kernel wasn't unmodern though. Qt-apps ran (recompile) on both Symbian and MeeGo using the same apis, Java and Symbian C++/legacy apps ran only on Symbian. They are manageable, has security features and all. It's not like Pre 3 and Palm devices that was never really finished or complete when it came to the developer environment. It is certainly easier to deliver Qt-applications (Posix C/C++) and use your existing code or share it between platforms then Windows Phone applications that needs to be written for the WP-framework in C#. C# didn't save Windows Mobile.
Not being able to create truly their own products doesn't create much space on the smartphone market for them. Remember the first Lumia 710's and 800 even had to be manufactured by Compal for some reason. They might need to take out competition like Nokia to succeed but it is just that, not for Nokia to actually succeed. Anti competitive behavior might not be the best to generate a market share though. If you really want to kill a company you should at least pay for it. Nokia mobile devision + networks is still a larger company then Microsoft.
RE: What is he smoking?
5/11/2012 3:08:21 PM
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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