About Nokia’s “Fightback starts now”. My rants, frustrations and hopes

Last week Anssi Vanjoki took over the Mobile Solutions unit of Nokia. And he’s off to an interesting start.

On his first day on the job, Anssi penned a rallying cry to Nokia  fans and employees, called “The fightback starts now” . Here’s some interesting newsbits from it.

It looks that all that “Nokia NSeries going exclusively Meego, ditching Symbiancommotion, which included a direct quote from Nokia’s PR rep, was a pile of BS. Yes, even an official Nokia quote was not true. I hope now, with Mr. Vanjoki in charge, Nokia will get a grip and learn how to project a coherent message to the public.

Anyway, N8 will not be the last Symbian NSeries device. There won’t be anymore S^3 NSeries handsets this year, or ever, but Anssi Vanjoki all but promised Symbian^4 NSeries flagship next year.

Anssi also directly addressed all those stupid rumors, advice and speculation about Nokia going Android, or Windows Phone, or whatever:

Symbian and MeeGo are the best software for our smartest devices. As such, we have no plans to use any other software. Despite rumors to the contrary, there are no plans to introduce an Android device from Nokia

There you have it. Simple and direct. Android on Nokia. Never. Gonna. Happen. Please do have that in mind, before starting another round of useless articles on this topic.

As far as interesting newsbits go, that’s about it. Well, the promise of the first Meego device this year was reiterated, too. The rest of the letter is more or less high level strategy outline, interspersed with marketing speak, drumming up the support for upcoming N8 Symbian^3 flagship, Symbian and Meego OS.

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And now’s a time for some Nokia bashing. With it’s performance to date, it’s too hard refrain from.

This whole post, and the promise to “start fighting back”, would make me feel much more happy, if I wasn’t burned by Nokia promises quite a few times in the past couple of years.

Remember Nokia World 2008 and the launch of N97? We all thought that fightback started back then. The iPhone was still  severely underspecc’ed at 3G version. Android 1.0 running  HTC Dream/G1 was virtually unusable to anyone beyond the core geek audience. Ant there it was – N97 – the first top of the line Symbian Touch device, with amazing specs and UI, which, in promo videos and controlled demoes  was simply amazing. We all know how that particular chapter in Nokia history ended…

Then there was Nokia World 2009, trumpeting to the whole world that “Nokia is now on offensive”. This new Nokia offensive was a pervasive message throughout the event. And, with the launch of Nokia N900, promise to finally get OVI services working, partnership with Facebook – it all sounded very sincere.

Unfortunately, most of the exciting things still remain a promise 10 months after they were announced. And Nokia’s overall results during the first half of 2010 are the best illustration of how the new Nokia offensive fared.

Now we get another promise, that “fightback starts now”. And, while admitting that they screwed up at the high end, lost the trust of most devoted users, and are now  a position of challenger, it’s still full of marketing speak and obfuscation:

Supposedly  “with products like the N8 and others to follow”, Nokia’s main goal was to preserve “the best and most familiar parts of Symbian, making it effortless for the largest population of smartphone users to upgrade”.

This, combined with how Nokia CEO  insists that Symbian^3, not Symbian^4 is the key upgrade for the Nokia smartphone OS, makes me anxious. Add to that the way  OPK seems in no rush to get to S^4 to the market: “Looking at the market conditions, we believe Symbian^3 will be competitive even next year. We don’t need Symbian^4 this year”, and I’m downright scared.

Dear senior management at Nokia, what the heck are you guys smoking up there, in Nokia HQ?

How does this preservation of the familiarity of Symbian translates into Symbian^4?  And as for S^3 being the major upgrade, maybe it is, from Nokia’s OS development POV. But who cares about that? For everyone else – it’s just some tweaks/correction of mistakes of an obsolete S60 5th edition. It’s a transition release, until you get Symbian^4 ready. Everyone who cares, knows that. Symbian Foundation reps keep telling us that at every opportunity. Official SF documents tell us that. And, until very recently, it was Nokia’s own position too.

So what the heck are you guys doing, touting Symbian^3, and other devices to come as the next best thing from sliced bread? And then hinting that Symbian^3 is only good for a single NSeries flagship, but you’ll have some truly amazing S^4 flagships next year. Yes, for it’s  price, Nokia N8 might have some amazing features. But it’s on a dead end fork in Symbian development roadmap, with a really tired OS on board. And, when the first S^4 handsets launch, it will look obsolete even to the most rabid Nokia fans.

Do you think think that a large portion  of Nokia enthusiasts and early adopters – people most likely to buy Nokia N8 in droves – do not know that? How many of those pining for the new high end Nokia Symbian handsets will opt to wait for S^4, or switch to Android? And how many who get N8, will feel let down by Nokia again, six months later.

Please Nokia, get off your high horse, and look around. Look at what your competition is doing. How Android handsets, released more then a year ago, are getting upgraded to the next generations of the OS. How their users are getting happier and more enthusiastic, with each iteration.

Then, maybe not now, but as soon as N8 is ready to ship, start creating buzz around upcoming UX improvements in S^4. And then announce that there will be an S^4 upgrade for Nokia N8.

As far as I know, there is no technical reason why S^4 won’t run on N8. If you decide to keep N8 users locked to S^3, it will be purely business decision. And a really dumb one.  “Looking at the market conditions”, Nokia N97 and N97 mini, seemed to be highly competitive products to you, even last September/October. They were not. And, compared to Android 2.2, from user POV, Symbian^3 is already behind too. At the rate competition is moving, next year S^3 based Nokia N8 will look downright pathetic.

Sending a clear message, that N8 and other Symbian^3 Nokia smartphones will be taken care of with latest OS upgrades, will create a lot of good will among the remaining Nokia fans. And it will boost the sales of your best and most expensive smartphone, at the time when you most need it, to improve your  declining ASPs.

And, please, stop all this “Meego is the only true computer OS, that will power mobile computers in the future” crap. Narrow definition of “true computer OS for mobile – is desktop PC Linux distribution, adopted for mobile needs” – is a load of geeky marketing BS. Nobody cares about that, and neither should you.  Android and iOS are also computing operating systems of the future, already powering computing devices beyond the traditional smartphones, and rapidly expanding their reach. HP owned WebOS will soon start moving into the space too.

Focus instead on how you will bring the best user and developer experiences,  for the particular class of Meego powered devices.

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Ok. Now that I’ve got my fears and frustrations about Nokia off the chest, I have to admit that with Anssi Vanjoki in charge of Nokia Mobile Solutions, I’m actually hopeful about Nokia’s future, again.

Yes, I know that saying “fool me once..fool me twice”. And, maybe, I’ll look as a complete idiot in another year, if Nokia fools me the third time. But I can’t help it.

There was a lot said about the ways Nokia communicates it’s message. And how  bad it is. Well, Anssi is the first and so far the only senior Nokia executive who bucks this trend. Even this “Fightback starts now” post, despite all my rants,  feels amazingly fresh and straightforward for someone like Nokia. And the high level strategy clearly outlined in the post sounds pretty persuasive.

Then, there’s a buzz from Nokia employees, about how”N8 is basically ready to ship, and now it’s only a matter of Anssi being satisfied with software”. Sounds eerily Jobsian, and might be exactly what Nokia needs. And there was that amazingly frank admission about how Nokia failed it’s customers with N97, so unexpected from any senior company exec.

These bits of direct insights about a man now in charge of Nokia’s turnaround are encouraging. As are some fun facts – like the ownership of worlds most expensive speeding ticket, for riding Harley too fast in Helsinki :)

Anssi’s history within Nokia looks promising too. From 2004 to 2007 – he was in charge of Multimedia division at Nokia. A division that brought us Nseries, the ultimate frontier of innovation in the mobile devices of the time. Nokia N95, the last major device released during Anssi’s tenure in Multimedia, was the pinnacle of Nokia’s leadership in mobile tech world. After 2007 and N95, it all was only downhill for Nokia.

Before that, from 1994- to 2004 he was one of the senior executives, and then the head of Nokia Mobile phones division. That was the time when Nokia shot past it’s rivals to become No.1 cellphone maker in the world, and kept this title for more then a decade now. Nokia Markets – the division Anssi was in charge of during the last 3 years,  was also one of the very few well performing parts of Nokia.

So yes, I’m much more skeptical then I ever was before, but I’m cautiously hopeful about Nokia’s future once again. And I’ll be watching trying to read the tea leaves for the signs of turnaround or further drift.

The important events on my calendar, to measure Nokia progress this year are:  Q2 earnings conference on July 22, Nokia World in September, Nokia Q3 CC in October and Nokia Markets event in December.

I’ll be surely chiming in, giving thumbs up or thumbs down,  after each of them.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • http://andreinchile.com Andre

    Nicely written. Here was my favorite paragraph:
    “There you have it. Simple and direct. Android on Nokia. Never. Gonna. Happen. Please do have that in mind, before starting another round of useless articles on this topic.”

    Since the “fightback starts now” Article we also know that Mr. Vanjoki (or can I say Anssi?) is reading the Symbian / Nokia blogs or at least got an idea of the general sentiment.

    I think the N8 will be a good start, personally I am using an N900 which I like. I am hoping turn by turn Ovi Maps should come soon (should not be too difficult since Maps will be based no QT) Also waiting for new QT based Apps & Games.

    I would be willing to leave Nokia but am still not finding really good alternatives (I love the SIP stack, UPNP, Joikuspot and Skype / IM integration) So Anssi, good luck for your new role – you are going to make it.

  • Ck89

    wrong guy for the job. No young people left in the top of Nokia. They have all been chased out

  • jp

    The most expensive ticket is not any more Anssi but a younger dude.

    Wikipedia:
    “The most expensive speeding ticket ever given is believed to be the one given to Jussi Salonoja in Helsinki, Finland, in 2003. Salonoja, the 27-year-old heir to a company in the meat-industry, was fined £116,000 for driving 80 km/h in a 40 km/h zone”.

    Anssi needs to speed up :-)

  • andref1989

    I think what anssi was hinting at was more an update to S^4 for the N8. Hence the wink.

  • http://twitter.com/milano486 Omer

    Symbian 4 is phones are expected in Q1 2011 and Meego phones in Q4 2010. This summer when iphone 4 came out nokia only had s60 for touch phones, which is pretty bad. Next year when iphone 5 comes out, Nokia will already have out Meego and S^4. It will be whole different ball game then.

    Symbian 3 is an important transitional step to keep buzz and market share, and attract new developers over the next few months. With Nokia's market share it doesn't have to be super special, just good enough. As long as this is not screwed up and it is good enough, then the road map looks good for Nokia.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/breathless.tao Breathless

    I'm glad to see someone else is also seeing the same bad things about Nokia that I see. Makes me think I'm not much of a moron after all. Only difference is, I can't really be this optimistic about it, but that's just me anyway…

  • Ck89

    Sorry, no matter how much I like the finns you dont bring a knife to a gun fight. Drop Symbian asap