Why Nokia repeats mistakes?

When the Finnish handset maker had to join Android, why did it do so after such a big delay? And after almost completely loosing the plot?

nokia-x-androidThe biggest news in this year’s Mobile World Congress, probably, is the launch of Nokia’s android phones. Its not big news because some handset maker adopted android as its OS but because Nokia, who has been avoiding to use Google’s OS for long, now embraced the hugely popular operating system. The question is when the Finnish handset maker had to join Android, why did it do so after such a big delay? And Nokia joined the bandwagon after almost completely loosing the plot where as it always had the option to use the most popular operating system in the past. Was this a deliberate strategy to commit the mistake or it just happened like that? And Nokia is not new to commit mistakes, in fact it repeats, and the magnitude of those mistakes are so huge and the impact was so bad that the Finnish giant, who once upon was synonymous with mobile phones, now struggling to find a survival strategy.

Five years back Nokia was the global leader, both in terms of volume and value, in the mobile phone space and there were five top handset makers in the world.Apple was a formidable force only in the US, and Samsung was trying very hard to catch up with the top global handset vendors. LG and Sony (then Sony Ericsson), though pretty big forces, were clueless as to find out a right strategy for the next five years. And Blackberry was a different competitor
altogether. That was the dynamics of the industry then. And that is the time when operating systems and applications started defining the mobile phone rather than just the quality of hardware or the form factor of the device.

Apple, as an undisputed king of the jungle who makes his own rules and defines its own territory, was successful in creating its own niche, by developing the entire ecosystem for a smartphone to flourish. It has its own hardware, software including OS and  applications -fairly that’s what a smartphone requires to meet the demands of a customer. And Apple has been the best in all the above categories. When the smartphone started gaining traction, besides Apple’s iOS, no one else had quite a future ready OS, though Nokia and Samsung were trying their best with their proprietary operating systems like Symbian and Bada respectively. Google, at the right time, dropped the Android bomb then. Being on the open source platform, it was easy to use, and the handset makers did not make any delay in experimenting with it, Nokia being the only exception.

Starting from late 2009, things were started worsening for the Finland based company, both in developed and emerging markets. With Android coming into picture, when every other handset vendors introducing smartphones with the easy-to-use OS, industry watchers and analysts expected that Nokia would adopt it too. But it continued experimenting and developing Symbian OS. But the users were changed by that time, they wanted something new, something refreshing, and Android, not Bada or Symbian, was able to offer that. Nokia did not join hands with Google for Android.

Surprisingly, three years back, Nokia joined hands with Microsoft for its Windows operating system. It was surprising for the industry who believed, Nokia, at a time of difficulty would act wise and smart, but it made its biggest mistake. Adopting Windows was not the mistake but the time was. Its other counterparts – Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC- all have smartphones running on both operating systems, Windows and Android. But these players introduced Windows based smartphones only when their Android based phones became popular and when they got accepted by the consumers across the globe. All these four companies – Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC- flourished at the cost of Nokia, and the Finnish firm suffered big time for that mistake.

That mistake by Nokia was a global one for which it suffered globally. A similar mistake was done by the company in India too, when it failed to sense the pulse of the Indian customers – the need of dual-SIM cards. That opportunity was tapped without a little error by all other mobile phone makers, Indian as well as global. Samsung dethroned Nokia in 2013, both in volume as well as value terms, almost after a decade.

Now, with joining handset with Android, Nokia can aim to come back to track. Like Apple, it also has a very established mobile phone ecosystem. It has great hardware, can offer smartphones on two operating systems -Windows and Android, a hugely successful mapping service and a well populated app store. Now after
the acquisition by Microsoft, cash infusion would not be a problem. It would not be too far, with all these factors at Nokia’s favor, why can’t the Finnish firm again become the giant of mobile phone industry.

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