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New Nokia Must Avoid Mistakes Of Old Nokia

HMD Global will launch new smartphones bearing the Nokia name early next year and the hype is already building ahead of the introduction. The general feeling is that old Nokia was undone by the decision to switch from Symbian to Windows Phone.

That's not the entire truth though. Nokia spent four years blowing its lead in the smartphone business. It failed to respond to the iPhone. In fact its response to the iPhone was the 5800. A phone so ridiculously bad its hard to believe that Nokia had a whole year from the launch of the iPhone to refine it.

By the time that Stephen Elop announced Nokia's switch to Windows Phone it was already in dire straits. That the announcement came so far ahead of the release of its first Windows Phone didn't help matters. Elop's burning platform memo arrived in February, the first Nokia Lumia phones were revealed in October. For the intervening ten months Nokia was getting by on selling technology so bad it had already announced its death.

As I've discussed before, Nokia had the platform to replace Symbian and take on the iPhone and Android even before the iPhone arrived. It launched the 770 Internet Tablet in early 2005. It took six years before that platform made it onto a phone. The N9 launched after Elop had announced the switch to Windows Phone, so was unsurprisingly DOA. Political infighting and the strength of the Symbian division had damaged the Maemo team's ability to deliver what would have been a phone to compete with the iPhone (and probably pre-empt the growth of Android) had it released three years earlier.

Between 2007 and 2011 Nokia released one garbage Symbian device after another. There were phones that looked promising on paper - the N97 and N8 for example - but two minutes experience of Symbian on them was enough to send even the staunchest Nokia fan running into Apple's arms.

So what of HMD's new Nokia offerings? They cannot just be another Android phone in a forest of great Android phones. To beat out Samsung, these will have to be high end phones delivering great customer experience. Trading on the Nokia name alone is a fast path to failure - as Blackberry will happily testify.

The suggestion has always been that a 2011 decision to go Android over Windows Phone would have saved Nokia. Looking at profitable companies in the Android market, I'm not sure that would be the case. In fact I'm pretty sure that without Microsoft subsidies and most favoured nation status, Nokia would have failed faster and harder than it eventually did.

So good as it is to see the Nokia name back on a smartphone, there's still some way to go before we can say that Nokia is truly back in the market it once led.


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