Nokia CEO Stephen Elop appeared on CNBC yesterday, and during the interview he squashed all rumors about a possible sale of his company’s mobile division to Microsoft. But aside from that, he had a few other interesting things to say.
One of those things is that Nokia’s first Windows Phones “are being designed and put together in California, with the US market very much in mind”.
Okay, so having the US market in mind is a pretty decent thing to do especially for Nokia which seems not to have had the US in mind for many many years. And considering that Windows Phone 7 is a US-born OS, again that makes perfect sense. Nokia will probably even start working with the US carriers, something it has always hated doing, and it will bring some WP7 devices to market there. Fine.
The first part of that sentence though is just plain funny. I mean remember the Nokia N900 and its “Designed in Finland” cheap jab at Apple? Oh my.
Image via AllAboutMeego
Here’s the story. Before the release of the Maemo-powered Nokia N900, Nokia somehow managed to find out that people tend to love Apple. Then someone within Nokia probably decided to buy an Apple mobile product (read: iPhone) – just to study the competition, of course. On that device, Apple proudly says that it’s “Designed in California” (as if California’s brand is more important and/or recognizable than the USA’s – but hey, who knows, maybe it is). So what did Nokia think to do?
Quick, let’s write “Designed in Finland” on one of our high-end devices. That will teach Apple! And hopefully make it go away! At least from the mobile industry.
Yeah. So die-hard Nokia fans were very excited with that. Most of the world didn’t care, as for Apple… just remember that the N900 doesn’t even run Symbian (which at the time was the world’s No.1 smartphone operating system) and you can imagine how hard they laughed.
Still, the “Designed in Finland” thing, while not hurting Apple in any way, didn’t hurt Nokia’s Finnish ego either. On the contrary, one might say. But this…
This is just giving up. In fact, everything Elop has done since he took the reigns from OPK smells like surrender. First, a surrender to Microsoft (Elop himself is that, choosing WP7 only makes it worse, and the possible sale… let’s not even go there), then a surrender to Apple – what else do Nokia smartphones designed in California signify?
Nothing, except that California was better than Finland all along. And, implicitly, Apple was better than Nokia. I don’t know what marketing books Nokia execs read, if any, but implying that one of your main competitors, which you have fought for years, has been better than you all along is probably not the smartest thing you can do.
It’s not how you win back consumers. Just think of what Joe average, the ‘man in the street’ could think about this. Oh, so Apple was right in everything it did all along. Well, nice one Nokia, nice of you to admit that. Now I’m off to buy my next iPhone, thank you very much.
This shift in thinking that seems to have occurred among Nokia’s management since Elop came along is a bit extreme. After (rightfully) pointing out each shortcoming of Apple’s devices since the first iPhone was announced, Nokia’s now basically saying oh yeah, easy to use software and sexy user experiences are everything that matters in the mobile space after all. Oh, and California.
Is California now the only place on Earth where you can design compelling mobile devices? Give me a break. Not even Microsoft, Nokia’s partner in all this, believes that. It’s headquarters are in Redmond, Washington.
I think that this going from one extreme to the other isn’t going to do anything good for Nokia outside of the USA. Perhaps it will have some effect there, and perhaps this is all about the US market. If so, it’s well played. Making Nokia a more American brand is going to do good things for its image there.
Nokia and Mr. Elop just need to remember one thing though: the Internet is global. And just like the February 11 announcement that Symbian is basically dead made its way to average consumers very fast (and they simply stopped buying Symbian-powered smartphones), such US-centric statements make their way across the globe equally fast. And not everyone on this planet will be as excited as Mr. Elop seems to be when he says that Nokia’s first WP devices are now being designed in California.
To watch the entire interview, go here.
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