While being interviewed on CNBC yesterday, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was asked what Nokia’s ‘Plan B’ is, what it expects to do in case Windows Phone 7 doesn’t take off, or if Nokia’s WP7 devices won’t sell well. A pretty reasonable question, but one that got a pretty troubling answer.
Elop said: “Plan B is to make sure that Plan A is very successful”. Obviously, if there was a Plan B discussed internally, Elop wouldn’t say what it was on television, not now before any WP7 Nokia devices even shipped. Doing that would totally undermine Nokia’s WP7 strategy.
However, it does make you think: what if there really is no Plan B? What if Elop is so confident in his beloved Microsoft (partnership) that he just can’t imagine it failing?
As I said before, that’s a troubling perspective. So let’s hope there’s a Nokia prototype somewhere running Android. Or there’s a PowerPoint slide somewhere at Nokia House which details (yet again, ironically) how MeeGo is the future. Anything not related to WP7, basically.
According to Mr. Elop, consumers are saying that Windows Phone is better in terms of their satisfaction than competing platforms. And, Elop thinks the only reason why WP isn’t bigger today is that Microsoft hasn’t yet had a big hardware partner such as Nokia to work with.
There are so many odd things about these statements that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, when you hear a sentence starting with “consumers are saying”, just don’t listen any further. What will follow is, in nine cases out of ten, marketing speak or PR spin, or both. I’m sure Nokia has surveyed 1000 individuals somewhere, and they all said WP7 was fabulous. Then again, any big company in any field can have such surveys done, and each one will be (very) favorable to the company paying for it. So let’s just forget that.
As for the fact that Microsoft needed a big partner such as Nokia to sell more WP7 devices… really? Why? Did Google need such a big partner to succeed with Android? No. Before you start shouting Motorola Droid!, consider two things. First, you can’t compare Motorola’s size (not pre-Droid, not post-Droid) with Nokia’s. Second, the most important partner for Google when launching the original Droid was not Motorola, it was Verizon. The phone maker could have just as easily been HTC, Samsung, LG, or any other company. It was Verizon that invested the marketing money, created the ‘Droid Does’ campaign, and basically put Android on the map in the US.
So why does Elop think that the lack of a partner the size of Nokia is what has kept WP7 behind the competition? Why would Microsoft need such a partner to succeed? These are both questions without plausible answers. There are many, many WP7 devices on the market right now. And people aren’t buying them. Period.
Although apparently carriers worldwide are very happy about Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft, so at least someone is. Of course this is something that has been said or implied before. And sure, the carriers have many reasons to be happy. A third big-ish player in the smartphone OS space (alongside Apple and Google, though why no one seems to ever count RIM is beyond me) means more choice for the carriers, and more choice means more negotiating power. And make no mistake, that’s all they care about.
Clearly, the following months will be very interesting for Nokia watchers. The company may be in the process of reinventing itself once again, as it has done so many times during its history, or we may be witnessing the beginning of the end for what was once the biggest company in the mobile industry. We’ll see which way it goes, and we’ll naturally be here to let you know too.
To watch Mr. Elop’s entire interview on CNBC, just go here.
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