Nokia’s fall from grace: Once a pace setter in the gadget industry

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Gone are the days when Nokia was hailed for being the best phone manufacturer, the most technologically advanced mobile phone and most of all the pace setter in the phone industry. The fall from grace began when iPhone (celebrating ten years now) was launched in 2007.

When the iPhone made its entry, it was technically inferior to the Nokia N95 a sensation at the time. The gadget came in a 2.6 inch LCD screen , a 5 megapixel camera with a video recorder, up to 8GB of storage, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity and a GPS receiver with navigation software.

On the other hand, the iPhone was offering a 2G device with only a 2 megapixel camera and did not support GPS . As much as this was inferior to Nokia, it changed people’s perception of a phone. Before that, Nokia created a perception that it was a phone first, then computer second. iPhone offered a computer that happened to include a phone capability. It was named invention of the year in 2007.

The iPhone disrupted design and how technology in devices was viewed. Nokia has been blamed for failure to innovate in good time. However, Nokia has tried to collect its pieces over the years, first, with the Microsoft partnership that technically buried the brand after an agreement that it was not to release phones before 2017.

Burning Platform

Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO from 2010 to 2014, admitted this as well. In his now famous “burning platform” memo, Elop compared Nokia to a burning oil platform with the employees faced with a choice of either perishing in the flames or jumping into the cold water below.

“We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time,” he said.

In the memo, he outlined how Nokia lost so much ground in such a short span of time. In a period of just two years, the iPhone had taken over the high-and smartphone space, Android had taken over the mid-range devices space and MediaTek, which had started licensing cheap chipset designs, had helped flood the low-end market with phones.

Blaming Nokia’s culture for not innovating fast enough, he added that the company was fighting the wrong battle, that the war was now about ecosystems, not devices.

Fast forward , Nokia has now resurfaced after launching its first device in china. The company filed for a trademark in Europe for something code named “Viki”, which the application says will be used for mobile and web-based “assistants working with digital knowledge and combining all data sources into a single chat and voice-based interface.

If Nokia is indeed creating a new digital AI, it will follow Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant. With the strategy to taste the waters in China, we already smell caution but again, how smart is the decision?  How ready the company is to compete in a market dominated by Samsung, followed by Apple and then Chinese firm Huawei. As put by Stephen Elop, this  maybe the wrong fight once again.

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Melissa Daniels
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