A Word of Advice for Stephen Elop: “Android”
…seriously! I know it is antithetical to the Nokia corporate ethos, but a complete commitment to Android seems like the only viable strategic path left for Nokia’s handset efforts, and as the new CEO, you don’t need to maintain any foolish consistency with the decisions taken by your predecessor.
Why? The most important observation is that the basis of competition in the handset industry has changed. Don’t be like the old General fighting the last war. This war is about the Apps and Services that people can use on their phones. The customers don’t give a hoot about making phone calls. Lord knows the popularity of the iPhone in places like San Francisco and Manhattan (where the mean time to losing a call/connection has to be less than a couple of minutes) demonstrates that the customers don’t care about many of the things that we in the telecom world think the customers should care about.
The easiest path would be to just copy the Samsung approach — they knew they were coming late to the Android market, so they invested very heavily in the engineering, distribution (eg, pricing to the carriers), and promotion of their flagship Galaxy S. It may well work for Samsung, but even if you committed to the Android path on your first day Stephen, it will still be 2012 before the first Nokia Android phones could ship, so you’ll be coming from much further behind than Samsung. That might auger for doing a bit more than this straight up the middle approach — but, this straight up the middle approach is not a bad place to start.
You could try something like the Motorola approach of “adding value” to the Android UI with Motoblur. I personally find it difficult to see much value add here, but maybe there is a segment of the market that really likes this sort of stuff. If they are seeing commercial success, the next question is how is this a sustainable source of competitive advantage? OK, my biases are showing through — I wouldn’t recommend the “copy Moto” strategy for Nokia.
What I do think would be a potentially fruitful approach for Nokia in their take on the Android strategy is to focus on the Browser. For all the things that Google has done well in their Android implementation, you’d think that the Browser would really kick butt. But it doesn’t. Google still doesn’t seem to understand the fundamentally different sort of Browsing one does when mobile than when sitting in front of a PC that has a reliable high-speed Internet connection. There are times when I still want Opera Mini-like functionality. HTML 5 is a great step in the right direction, but if Nokia took a more pragmatic approach to the mobile Browser, it could be awesome.
Other relevant posts on this Meme, Stephen: