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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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Dan Pearson