The best strategic analysis of Nokia’s parlous position I’ve ever seen comes to us from ex-Nokia-executive and longtime company-watcher Tomi Ahonen: The Sun Tzu of Nokisoftian Microkia. It’s thorough, entertainingly written, and includes some instructive diversions into military history.
It’s long and really can’t be summarized well – you need to plow through Ahonen’s detailed analyses of things like the impact of Microsoft’s Skype purchase on Nokia’s carrier relationships to understand how royally Elop has screwed the pooch.
I see only one thing that I think Ahonen gets wrong. I think he is too complacent about what the actual medium-term prospects for Symbian were at the time Elop took the helm at Nokia; he understimates the speed of transition to smartphones and overestimates the stickiness of Symbian as a platform under that pressure.
Thus, I think Ahonen’s evaluation that Elop’s “Burning Platforms” memo wasn’t diagnosing a real problem is incorrect. On everything else, though, his indictment of Elop seems dead on target. He persuades me that Elop’s later blunders (beginning with tying Nokia to the Windows phone) were even larger and stupider than I thought at the time.
This essay changes my mind about something significant. I thought at the time of the Burning Platforms memo that Nokia’s best move would have been to ride the Android tide, that MeeGo was a noble but doomed effort that could never have gained any traction. Ahonen does a good job of arguing that Nokia had the marketing reach and good carrier relationships needed to make MeeGo seriously competitive. This, in retrospect, makes Nokia’s cancellation of MeeGo seem like even more of a tragic blunder than it did at the time.
Yes, I know that some Nokia alumni have just launched a MeeGo startup aimed at making it competitive on smartphones. I wish them every bit of luck, but they don’t have the co-factors for success that Ahonen ably describes, so I cannot think much of their chances.
Finally…who knew Ahonen was so well-versed in military history? That’s something I know more than a little about myself, and I’m here to certify that where my knowledge overlaps with his I find his command of facts excellent, and his judgment sound and incisive. Thus, I’m going to go read up on the Battle of Suomussalmi sometime soon.