Lee Williams: “At Old Nokia, We Could Sell Anything, Even Crap”

Nokia Symbian irritating

Funny morning this. I woke up to a rather surprising interview of Nokia’s ex-SVP of Series 60 Software, Lee Williams (who was also the Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation, before Nokia took it back in 2010). He spoke a lot, trying to spread a lot of FUD around Nokia’s Lumia brand and its Windows Phone strategy. And in the same breath, justifying Nokia’s Symbian OS, the one that’s become barely usable in the current age.

A lot of what he said was obvious. If you have even a little interest in Nokia, you’d understand that they’re going through a transition. And no transition is easy. Elop played a masterstroke on February 11, last year. He, more or less, made Symbian look dead, and announced that the company would be using Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS as its primary platform. Why I call it a masterstroke is because, for Nokia’s Windows Phones to succeed, Symbian had to die. And for Symbian to die, Elop had to do what he did that day. He announced that there won’t be any more premium Symbian device, save for one. And that one premium Symbian device we have today, is the PureView 808. Symbian’s last hurrah, and quite arguably, it’s in a class of its own.

But it’s going to bought by only those people who still love Symbian, or those who want the best cameraphone out there. It’s not for the masses, and it’s good that it isn’t. Because if it would be, Nokia’s Lumia devices would take a triple-monty – from the iPhone, Android, and Nokia’s own Symbian.

Which is why I again say, Elop’s decision is a masterstroke. Not only that, but courageous too. By betting on Windows Phone alone, Elop sounds firm in his pledge to turn around Nokia, and confident too. Had he bet the company on more than one OS, the consumers and fans would have split their backing – and at the same time, they wouldn’t make Nokia seem strong. That would be bad for the company – not only would their fans be split, but their sales would be too. And then, the company would not be a part of, or the creator of, another solid ecosystem that the US carriers much desire for.

But not many see the merit in this decision. And certainly, Lee Williams doesn’t.

According to him, Nokia could make a crappy Symbian device, yet sell millions. I’ll quote him.

When I was at Nokia and we shipped a Symbian product and it was bad, in its worst incarnation we knew that if we just flipped the switch, we could move 2.5 to three million units — overnight, no matter how bad the product. That was Nokia. That was Nokia’s brand, we knew we could count on that.

And now look at it — they flipped the switch and oh, 200,000 [Windows Phone] units out of the gate. Huh? Only selling in the US, under AT&T’s moniker. If you can’t flip the switch like that, Nokia’s dead and devalued.

Absolutely disgusting. The end user is of no concern to this man. Nor does he bother about the same brand Nokia taking a hit when they ship a half-baked brick in the market. Absolutely no concern about it eh.

We all know how painful it was to use S60v5. The N97 disaster is a classic example. Which, apparently, happened while Lee Williams was the person in-charge.

I’m pretty sure it’s people like him who dug a giant deep hole where Nokia finds itself in. And it’s ridiculous when people like him come out the woodwork to maul Nokia and Elop.

Read the full interview at CNET