February 11, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop used a “burning platform” metaphor to tell staffers that their company faces a life-threatening decision. They can either stand on a burning oil rig and be consumed by the flames, or take a risk and dive into the ocean below.
At a press briefing this morning, Elop announced that Nokia will leap from the burning platform and adopt Windows Phone 7 as its operating system of choice. Sidestepping adoption of the more popular and rapidly-growing Android, Nokia has made a bold move that could prove to be one of its worst.
The man on the platform could have leapt feet-first into Android, a platform that has risen to prominence faster than anyone could have imagined. It would have attached Nokia’s name, which carries a recent history of great hardware with undesirable software, to the ecosystem best-suited to challenge Apple and RIM. Putting Gingerbread on a Nokia phone would have assured that a phone with an incredible camera, radiant design, and strong physical build, had equally impressive software. But the man on the platform chose an upstart that has so-far failed to catch-on with consumers.
Nokia’s previous leader scoffed at Android and stood firm in his commitment to Nokia’s platforms. It made sense that the phone maker would do everything in its power to protect its domain. But Stephen Elop didn’t see that as the right strategy in a “war of ecosystems” that has Nokia looking like a failing empire with raiders closing in on all side. Still, it’s surprising that Nokia changed course for Windows Phone 7?
Windows Phone 7 is a decent operating system, but it’s far behind Android in every metric. That was seen as a positive rather than a negative, as Elop said Nokia passed on Android because it “would have difficulty differentiating within that ecosystem.” Android has moved so far because of the number of companies producing phones running the OS, but there are “too many players” for Nokia to see the rapid turnaround that Elop wants. WP7 presents a smaller field of competition and a chance for a unique opportunity (Microsoft is giving Nokia preferential treatment over other WP7 makers). So instead of getting into the sturdy lifeboat that already had some other oil workers, Nokia entered the shaky one with fewer people. (Better to be the captain of a sinking ship than a passenger on one that floats?)
Current trends show that Android is a more desirable operating system for cell phone buyers, but WP7 seemed the most desirable and sensible choice to Elop. Nokia saved itself by jumping off the burning platform that was Symbian and Meego, but the oil-slick covering the water that is Windows Phone 7 may catch afire before Nokia ever gets the chance to swim to safety.
Good or bad decision?