It’s time for a “radical change” at Nokia, new company CEO, Stephen Elop emphatically insisted in an internal note to employees, posted Feb. 8 by Engadget and reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. A Jerry McGuire-style, 1,200-plus-word manifesto, the document arrives just days before Elop’s Feb. 11 date with investors in London, where he is scheduled to detail his plans for turning around the phone maker, which last quarter lost its long-held title as the world’s leading smartphone platform to Google’s Android.
In the document, Elop offers an anecdote of a fisherman forced to choose between the burning platform he’s standing on and the frigid, dark waters of the North Sea. Circumstances caused by Nokia’s own poor decisions have put the company in a position, the document suggests, where it similarly must either do something previously unthinkable or else be consumed.
“How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?” Elop said in the document, continuing:
“This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning.“
Elop goes on to explain how Apple came to change the game and now commands its highest end, as well as how Google’s Android, in just two years, similarly grabbed a great portion of the market’s high end and is now focused on midrange products. (“Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry’s innovation to its core,” Elop said in the document.) Additionally, Chinese vendors, helped by MediaTek, are churning out devices to emerging markets-stealing Nokia’s bread and butter.
“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,” Elop wrote, adding:
“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, e-commerce, 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, catalyze or join an ecosystem.“
Nokia has been steadfast in its support of the Symbian operating system, which has steadily lost popularity and market share to Android and Apple’s iOS. A year ago, at the 2010 MWC (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona, Nokia announced support for an additional OS called MeeGo-an amalgam of its Maemo and Intel’s Moblin. With the 2011 MWC approaching, however, it has yet to release a smartphone running the platform.