Outgoing Ollila reflects on Nokia's smartphone past... and future

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There's an interesting interview in the Financial Times today with outgoing Nokia chairman Jorma Ollila, in which he looks back at his past three decades at the company, along with making a few admissions from the modern era, including "Nokia's past failure to keep pace with smartphone technology". Some other quotes below.

From the FT.com article (which can be read in full for free, but you do have to register an account on the site):

Analysts see the company at a crossroads again, having lost a key battleground in software, forcing it to take sides with Microsoft on its unproven Windows [Phone] smartphone operating system. Mr Ollila admits to Nokia’s past failure to keep pace with smartphone technology after he became chairman in 2006, a fact that led to the company’s decision to call time on its in-house platform, Symbian.

He is loathe to see an end to a software and services operation that he still sees as key in spite of fierce competition from the likes of Google and Apple. “[Nokia] has been able to do well until very recently in this increasingly demanding space where you need to combine hardware with software.”

This ability will improve again, he says, but there is a feeling among investors that the company is taking too long, with vague pronouncements of cost cutting and product launches leaving them no wiser about how the company’s revival. Mr Ollila says that it would be a combination of strategies, not least taking advantage of technology changes. “This industry will have many different phases in the next five or 10 years to which Nokia will be able to respond,” he says, pointing to potential uses of its bespoke location software.


I'd have phrased things slightly differently - in my eyes, Nokia virtually invented smartphone technology between 2000 and 2007, culminating in the Nokia N95, but I'd agree that the adoption of faster processors, GPUs, capacitive touchscreens and fully-functional software stores were all tardy in the extreme.

With the wisdom of armchair quarterbacks, we can all point to specific mistakes that Nokia may have made over the last five years in the smartphone arena. I'd highlight the stepping back from the powerful GPUs inside the N95/N82/E90 era devices into dumber devices that were far less capable for multimedia and games.

And I think just about everyone would highlight as a mistake the way Nokia 'transitioned' S60 into touch-based devices rather than creating a next-generation UI on top of Symbian OS to compete with the iPhone - we got there in the end with Nokia Belle and we got there in the end by adopting Windows Phone, but neither came to full fruition until 2012, five years after the iPhone's announcement. And five years is an eternity in the world of mobile.

Source / Credit: FT