Of Nokia, Apple, Elop And Marketing

I’ve been wanting to write this editorial for a long, long time now. And with what Elop had to say yesterday at Uplinq, I wanted to push this out even earlier. Well, a lot of work came my way and I could not. But it’s never too late, I guess. So why wait, lets dive in, shall we?

Elop did say quite a lot yesterday. A lot. And quite some is what I agree with, but the rest.. I’m doubtful.

At the recent interview by All Things Digital, Elop was candid. He talked about the future, the past and the present. He talked about how he’d disrupt the Android ecosystem by creating a Windows Phone one. He also talked about how he would help his Windows Phone partners, viz., HTC, Samsung, LG and rival the Android ecosystem. As end users, we’re not complaining. Not at all. In fact, we only stand to benefit from Elop’s strategy, if it succeeds, that is.

Next up, he calls the American market as the leading one. Saying that the US of A is the leading market is somewhat disturbing. Not because I do not belong to that part of the Earth, but because it is not true. It isn’t. Most of what these American tech bloggers and the analysts call as innovation and invention has been happening in the far East. In Japan. A lot of these so-called American innovation claims are false. The truth is, America lags behind. Far behind. So behind that it’s a safe bet to say that Japan and South East Asia leads the USA by almost 8-10 years. Sure they’re making progress, but Elop calling it as ‘the’ leading market is unjust. And false.

Japan, for example, has been using Mobile Payment system, NFC (Near Field Communication), Waterproof devices tech and the likes for years now. And these are features that the American companies are planning to introduce or are introducing now. Yes, years behind the Japanese. Innovation wise, Japan leads. And the Japanese don’t even brag about it. The American companies, the so-called leaders, are only now introducing them. And right away, they’re starting to brag about it, taking away all the advantage of the early innovators. Qualities of a leader, Mr. Elop?

Back to the Android vs. Windows Phone ecosystems. Elop, borrowed from Microsoft, an American company, is talking about rivaling the entire Android ecosystem, comprising of dozens of small and medium and big companies. He must either be insane or overly courageous to do so. Now lets take a look at it from a businessman’s point of view. Firstly, he talks about helping out his counterparts and innovating in such a way that the partners will equally benefit and be able to use the tech in their devices, thereby maintaining the same flavor of features across the entire Windows Phone range. Compare this to his reasoning about Nokia not deciding to use Android – he had said that there would be very little to no scope of differentiation. Now since his partners would also be using the Finnish company’s innovations, how more could there be any sort of differentiation? Wouldn’t all the Windows Phones be same then? What happened to his theory of differentiation here? Sure he thinks that this would help them generate Economies of Scale and thus leverage the Windows Phone brand, but should it not be the headache of Microsoft rather than Nokia? Should Microsoft not decide and not the vice versa? I mean, come on, it’s not your own OS, Nokia. You do not own it. Just that you’re using it does not mean you waste all your intellectual property and cede the advantage to your partners, which also happen to be your rivals. Seriously, coming to think of it, I’d rather have wanted Microsoft to keep Windows Phone exclusive to my company and thereby, I’d not mind a bit helping the OS provider with services that my company excels at. It makes perfect business sense to be doing so. But in an environment where I have other parties also using the OS that my company is using, and these parties also use the rival OS, I’d rather keep those advantages that my company has to myself, thereby protecting my IP.

And if taking on the Android ecosystem would be my main priority, I’d nicely use the Windows Phone OS, gain abundant developer traction, and create an equally slick or even better OS to use myself. That way, I’d ensure that my present as well as future would be secure. Sort of an Insurance Policy. But look at Nokia. They have given up on MeeGo, Symbian is on it’s death bed already and they’re completely moving on to Windows Phone. They have nothing to fall back on in case Windows Phone fails. They could have bought off Palm last year when there was an oppurtunity. But they didn’t. They trusted Symbian would bail them out, and it still can. Looking at the flood of awesome Qt apps that I see these days, I feel sad, rather than feeling happy. Sad, because Nokia gave up too early.

And it’s quite obvious by now how competent and business/marketing acumen laden the previous Nokia management was. They lacked the intent, vision, wisdom and their goals were either too short termed, or too long termed. Take the case of Ngage for example. Launched in 2004, it aimed at bringing gaming to Mobile Phones. It was too early for the market, and Nokia got the timing wrong. Then come these Android phones and iPhones, touting class gaming stuff. These, coupled with fairly good timing (with capable hardware and software) and sheer marketing genius (or gimmicks, whatever you prefer) have resulted in them being a success. Nokia once again lost on something it could call as it’s innovation/invention.

Next, the Cupertino based Apple Inc. Steve Jobs is one marketing genius. And true to his character, he launched the now-wildly-successful and only-recently-partial-smartphone, the iPhone. He redefined the entire concept of simplicity coupled with a walled garden, consisting of huge number of developers. The world innovated, and he just capitalized on their efforts. Signs of an ultimate opportunist, one thinks. In Jobs case, he got the timing right. Sheer business acumen coupled with a Vision, Goal, and an objective have propelled Apple to the heights they are currently scaling.

I’d rather prefer a company that does it all right rather than a company that innovates and does not capitalize on it’s advantage(s). And personally, I think the saying “It’s never too late” is conditional. At least it does not apply to this industry.

Get your act together Nokia, or otherwise the 2012 prophecy may just prove to be true for you.

PS: If anyone recalls, Elop is uttering the same old words again and again (War of Ecosystems). Maybe he wants to emphasize that he thinks he’s right, but he should ideally keep quite and just let the products say it for themselves. Actions speak louder than words, after all.