Nokia CEO Stephen Elop lights fire under staff

Leaked memo shows executive's fury and frustration at loss of market share

A leaked memo sent by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has shown the extent of the concern which management at the Finnish company are expressing over its future.

Nokia's domination of handset technology has been washed away in the flood of smartphones and their operating platforms in the shape of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. In his memo, Elop tells staff that Apple now "owns the high range" market, referring to the $300 plus handset bracket comprehensively saturated by iPhones.

Android, Elop says, is taking over mid range phones, and penetrating downwards into the lower brackets, too. Whilst "Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry's innovation to its core."

Drawing an analogy with a man standing on a "burning platform", who must take a daring plunge or be consumed by flames, Elop bemoans the poor decisions made by Nokia which have lead to its sidelining in the area, and lambasts the struggling Symbian platform for its failure to take advantage of new hardware innovation. Corporate structure and management do not escape his wrath, either.

"How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved," the CEO asked of staff.

"This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally.

"Nokia, our platform is burning."

Perhaps most interestingly, Elop tacitly suggests that it's perhaps time for Nokia to adopt another company's platform technology, pointing out that riding on the back of another platform's success brings many benefits.

"The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things," wrote Elop.

"Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem."

The memo was leaked to various sources online before being printed in full by Engadget. Towards its end, Elop mentions that Nokia will be sharing a new strategy on Friday 11 February, which he hopes will change Nokia's fortunes, acknowledging as he does so that it will be a "huge challenge".

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Latest comments (13)

Laurent Benadiba CEO, SDP Games7 years ago
Forget about all custom SDKs Android has won. Forget about high range devices Apple has won.

Design pretty phones for low to mid range. Embrace Android. Create a Nokia Android shop with premium content built in the phone. Start a developer incentive "Nokia finances your game if it's exclusive to Nokia Premium". Recycle all internal software dev to content creation.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 7 years ago
PLEASE!!! Dont adpot android Nokia.

Please dont copy Apple.

Please remain Nokia.

From a lifetime Nokia User.
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Julien Amougou , Nokia7 years ago
ok I'll tell the boss. Thanks guys. ;)
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Show all comments (13)
Private Industry 7 years ago
They still make phones? :D

Seriously, I recall seeing 80% of the people running around with a Nokia when I went to school and yet I have seen nobody with a Nokia smartphone so far, they all have either a iPhone, Samsung, HTC or in some cases a Sony Ericcson. Adopting android is probably the best solution if you are so far behind the others and have to compete against Apple and Google it`s probably not a good idea to keep doing a new software. Obviously there would be the odd choice of Windows Phone 7 in hopes that it gets more popular. Well actually that could work to some extend for the US market with heavy focus for the advertisement on LIVE integration and a bit more towards gaming (no not N-Gage style :D )
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Jon Irenicus OCAS 7 years ago
Iam Nokia N900 owner and im very satisfied
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Rob Evans CEO & Lead Developer, Isogenic Engine7 years ago
They lost the plot after the 6210. Phones with circular dialling that NO ONE could actually dial from because it was a nightmare to learn the new button positions, a total lack of cashing in on the success in movies such as the matrix... I can remember EVERYONE wanting a "banana phone" that had a slide-down mouthpiece and yet I only ever saw one model with this feature in the UK. I had a 5110, a 7110 and a 6210 but honestly, I cannot remember the last time I looked at a nokia phone and thought, "ooo I want to play with that". Last advert I saw for a Nokia was some thing that had some sort of loud speaker and mp3 capability... and I saw that and thought, "great, now they want to encourage idiots on buses and trains to loud-speaker their jungle music".

Fail after fail. Please, Nokia staff... talk to me and I will tell you how to get back on top. I love gadgets, I love innovation. I've owned loads of nokia phones, 3 iphones and now use a Samsung Galaxy S.

First, drop Symbian, it's a dead duck. Adopt Android. You open up to an existing app ecosystem, massive app developer base. DON'T LISTEN when people tell you not to... if you want to run a business you have to look ahead and not hold on to old hat tech. MAKE YOUR WEB BROWSER the most compatible it can be (read HTML5 support and very fast canvas for web games)... take webkit and make it work for you. Ensure that the browser is the centre-piece of the phone... it is the centre of everyone's digital world, whilst you're on the phone or not.

Get rid of proprietary software and make your phone sync with everything using google accounts, facebook etc. If I want some music on my phone, WHY am I plugging it in?!? Drag drop onto a web-page that syncs with my phone over lan or wifi... child's-play.

You can break into the premium phone market... it's pretty simple conceptually. Build a phone with a faster processor than an iPhone (2GHZ MINIMUM - or if it's gonna take you a year, 3 GHZ). Run the latest Android and KEEP IT UP TO DATE - Make that a promise and you'll get devs all over the place interested including me. Make it responsive, sexy and easy to use. Most of this is already done for you by Android so you just need to put the hardware together.

Make them carrier independent and don't allow carriers to customise (read cripple) the install. Market your phones at professionals, NOT teenagers who's whims change faster than their clothes.

I could go on... and if any Nokia employee wants to chat I will happily do so. I remember loving Nokia and being proud to own one... let's make that happen again.
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Catalina Quijano Localization Project manager, Ubisoft7 years ago
I am a Nokia user and I am NOT completely satisfied with the N900. I read all the reviews and made my decision, shelling out the $$$ for a very good phone. Blogger Jeff Hoogland makes some excellent points here:, but after one full year of usage, here is my analysis as well:
Pros: love that I can check all my various email addresses in an easy organized format; ie Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, even though it took me a while to set up the whole thing and occasionally it needs rebooting
Awesome camera, comparable in quality to many digital cameras, but I miss the front view camera (now iPhone has one, and you guys took it away?)
Sleek, sexy design.
Maemo operating system makes it less prone to hackers, who will find ways to attack Android based operating systems. Overall, there arenít enough security measures to protect Smartphone users anyway, and this needs to be addressed quickly and efficiently
Cons: Adobe Flashô 9.4 support, which is very useful feature, but it never works when I need it to! I have read many blogs and the same goes for the Facebook app, it malfunctions and constantly upgrades, but now change.
There is partial compatibility with older applications, some things work and some donít, and some of them required libraries the device didnít have. Apps that are available are not extensive and often useless
I canít get text message with pictures. Bummer.
Although considered more of a mini computer than a phone; this aspect is inefficient, non-user friendly and confuses my touch commands when I make a call. You canít assign ringtones to each person who calls and the touch screen may be too sensitive but perhaps I can adjust that. It drives me crazy to pick up my phone as it rings only to find I hung up on the caller before I said hello.
My previous N95 was way ahead of iPhone in face-to-face video calls, except sadly no one I knew could share a conversation with me since they did not have front-view cameras. No when I want to have this experience, why canít I have this option?
The charger female output broke after one year, which despite its durability was disappointing because none of my previous high-end Nokiaís ever had this problem. I buy Nokia because of its rep of a very durable body, having been dropped on pavement many times, never had a crack or malfunction on the screen. Slips open keyboard smoothly but the buttons started chipping off paint 3 months after purchase. Where are you making these phones now, at a Chinese sweatshop?

Below; Courtesy of
Awkward Placement of Charging/Headphone Ports - It is awkward to hold/type on the device while either (or both) of these are plugged in.
Battery Life - With heavy usage the N900 dies in about 6 hours. While this is still fairly good I've found I run the battery out almost every day so I always charge at the office and in my car.

Nokia, shape the hellp up. You are burning down and you are losing my business.
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And since you're at it, please tell him that John up here wants him to stay on the Nokia burning platform... watching the fire show doing absolutely nothing. Standing still. :))

Fact: Apple is winning it. Android follows. SonyEricsson almost gave up. Nokia is burning.

But please also tell your boss to consider that "it's now or never". SonyEricsson decided that the smartphones market is out of their reach, as of "full competition". They went for Android and gave up introducing a proper PSN on their latest phone - which also sports crappy hardware specs.
Microsoft would try anything they can throw money at, so it doesn't count *that* much - although it looks like they are gaining some momentum in the attempt of integrating all their platforms (PC, xbox, zune, phone7) - although they do not currently provide an OSX version of their Zune marketplace... silly them... as usual. :))

Nokia could be the third marketplace. It's well late already, but when you got something that's well done, well thought, and you projected your vision well ahead anything else... you might stand a chance - which would be a lot already. Stay alive with a couple of Android models... while working behind the curtains on something truly brilliant and fast - that also reads: "without any slow Java crap around". Get Lua or Python...make it *dead* easy to build powerful, smooth apps. Create a visual environment, editors... integrate it with industry tools like Flash, Maya, Max... support the whole content creation chain... you get the idea.
And, of course, try and build the "final" marketplace... the one that solves most of the problems from the other stores... right from its very roots. A totally re-thought, innovative and rewarding app store - for both the good apps and the wise consumer.

If Nokia definitely wants to become the next "Android" clone-phone, they will probably slowly lose their brand and presence - as SonyEricsson just began to.

Best of luck! ;)

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Istvan Fabian Principal Engineer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
Nokia user here as well, but I have been waiting forever to anything that would even be comparable to HTC, Apple and other high-end offerings...
I like Nokia hardware, sound quality, battery life etc. - but please, get rid off Symbian, it's dead and buried.
How about licesing PlayStation Suite...?

Do tell the boss Julien - I hope my next handset could be a Nokia again :)
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 7 years ago
I'm pretty sure I read a couple of weeks ago that Symbian still has about of 30% of the market. I'll find the link. EDIT - here it is.

Anyway, if true, I appreciate that it's a sharp drop from the 70-something percent they had about 4-5 years ago, but that's still nearly a third of the total Smart Phone market. If they just got some good heavily marketed hardware out there I think a company of their size would be able to claw back some market share.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 10th February 2011 1:42pm

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Varun Bondwal Pipeline TD 7 years ago
I also own a Nokia N900 and and not happy with it. Had bought it after watching so many reviews online which seemed incredible. Compared to an iPhone N900 seems terribly slow.
On the bright side it has been dropped quite a no of times and nothing broke, it is heavy enough and a good paperweight. I like it mostly because I can watch movies on it.

@ Catalina Quijano: The front camera CAN be used, you can find it here [link url=
But the image quality leaves a lot to be desired

(Even has an iPhone app, do you think you'd be making a Maemo app soon enough ? )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Varun Bondwal on 10th February 2011 4:14pm

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Roger Weber Founder & CEO, Ranked Gaming7 years ago
I had a Nokia ... like 8 years ago. Nokia didnt evolve with the rest of the world, when it comes to phones.

However Qt is, in my humble opinion, the best cross-platform development toolkit to date. MySQL was to Sun what Qt should be to Nokia. I hope that they realize that. Life is pretty simple, it's not the strongest or the fastest organisms that survive evolution, but the ones that can adopt and change fast enough with the ever-changing environment. That applies to ecology as much as it does to business and technology.
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Catalina Quijano Localization Project manager, Ubisoft7 years ago

Thanks Varun, I just wish more people would actually use that option with me! doesn'tmatter, who knows if I can get the damn thing working again.
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