Flipping the switch at Nokia


Nokia’s SVP of Series 60 software in 2006-2009, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation until 2010 and now a partner at Sourcebits, a San Francisco mobile software consultancy, Lee Williams is bitter about what current CEO Stephen Elop is doing to Nokia. In a CNET interview today, Williams says:

When I was at Nokia and we shipped a Symbian product and it was bad, in its worst incarnation we knew that if we just flipped the switch, we could move 2.5 to three million units — overnight, no matter how bad the product…That was Nokia. That was Nokia’s brand, we knew we could count on that.

And now look at it — they flipped the switch and oh, 200,000 [Windows Phone] units out of the gate. Huh? Only selling in the US, under AT&T’s moniker. If you can’t flip the switch like that, Nokia’s dead and devalued.

What’s remarkable here is the candid portrayal of the Symbian mindset: “no matter how bad the product” was, Nokia could “flip a switch” and “move 2.5 to three million units — overnight.” Just like that.

Nokia wasn’t in the business of shipping a great user experience, products that delight customers, engaging and innovative apps, vibrant and profitable ecosystem…it was in the business of flipping switches and shipping out millions of “units” even when they knew “it was bad, in its worst incarnation.” And they “knew [they] could count on that.” It wasn’t about the product, it was all about the units.

Has there ever been a better demonstration of the corrosive effects of the “market share über alles” fetishism?