Well, that didn’t take long. Just a few hours ago I was speculating in a comment thread that Stephen Elop’s cozy deal with Microsoft Microsoft might lead to a fairly near-term shareholder revolt, and lo, it has occurred. Welcome to Plan B.
This is pretty dynamite stuff. A group of Nokia shareholders is planning an attempted coup at the May 3rd general meeting. They want to start by firing Elop and his henchmen, then reframe the Microsoft tie-up as a tactical play for the U.S. market, then put the company fully behind MeeGo as their bid for the smartphone future.
The question is, can it possibly work?
Maybe. I have to say that on first reading Plan B sounds a helluva lot more sober and credible than Elop’s jump into the arms of Redmond. Well, except for the part where they don’t tell Microsoft to pound sand, that is. The points about concentrating rather than dispersing R&D will strike most open-source programmers as an odd thing to focus on (our culture is used to cross-time-zone collaboration and does it pretty well) but as a tactic for fully concentrating on a six-month sprint to get a MeeGo handset out the door it probably makes sense.
Why do I say six months? Because I found a MeeGo dev who was willing to let me quiz him. He thinks tablet MeeGO and the infrastructure for handset MeeGO is in good shape; the work that’s left to be done is specific handset applications. When I asked him how long that would take, he considered a bit and said “6 months if it were being done entirely in house”. He fingered the open-governance process as a drag on time to market, which I’m guessing reflects the same growing plains that led the Plan B group to put centralizing R&D on their bullet list. Sounds like the project needed that fine old open-source tradition of a benevolent dictator but didn’t have one.
That six-month figure is interesting because it means my source could be low in his estimate by a factor of two without making MeeGo’s time-to-market worse than WP7′s.
Absent from Plan B is any kind of Android story. The Plan B backers seem to share Elop’s belief that Nokia would have its profit margins planed away to zero by Asian competition if it went that route. And I think they’re unwise not to simply tell Microsoft to shove WP7 up its own ass.
Still, even with these reservations, I think Plan B is more likely to maintain Nokia as a viable company than Elop’s. It has the advantage that Microsoft’s ability and willingness to hold up its end aren’t critical to the plan. There’s a string of dead companies, including in the cellphone space both Sendo and Danger, that could tell you how very huge an advantage that is.
UPDATE: Alas, the Plan B effort has folded. Institutional investors didn’t go for it.
UPDATE2: And don’t miss this artful mockery. Of the Elop deal, nor plan B. I think…
UPDATE3: Now we learn that Plan B was a hoax. You know what’s really sad? That the hoax still sounds more credible than Nokia’s actual business plan even when I know it’s a hoax.