Nokia VP Compares Android To Peeing In Your Pants To Stay Warm

from the a-turn-of-phrase dept

It’s no secret that Nokia hasn’t really done that well in capturing the modern smartphone market. With the proliferation of iPhones and Android devices around the world, Nokia has seemingly stumbled quite a few times. Even if it’s made some cool phones with good software, it hasn’t really captured the public imagination. This has resulted in some people asking if Nokia wouldn’t be smarter to just adopt Android itself, and give up on Symbian. However, a Nokia VP (who’s actually leaving the company) reportedly responded to such a question by claiming that phone makers who embrace Android are like young boys who “pee in their pants” to stay warm during the winter. In other words, such a strategy may have (very) short-term benefits, but can lead to much bigger problems in the long run. I’m not sure that’s actually true, however. And, from a company that hasn’t been achieving much of anything on this front for quite some time, I doubt that those who have embraced Android sense that they’re just wetting their pants right now either…

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Comments on “Nokia VP Compares Android To Peeing In Your Pants To Stay Warm”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would think this has far more to do with Nokia’s efforts on Meego (formerly Maemo) than Windows Phone. Ceding to Microsoft is not much different than ceding to Android from Nokia’s business strategy. However, Nokia has been trying to capture some of Android’s thunder with its Maemo OS (based off Debian Linux), QT, and the merging of their Maemo with Intel’s Moblin into Meego, which is nominally headed by the Linux Foundation. The major differentiation between Meego and Android (aside from the technical advantage of being effectively a desktop Linux distro) is that Nokia would have a major stake in the evolution of the OS and related services, whereas Android would effectively make them into simple commodity hardware providers.

sean says:

the argument the Nokia VP is alluding to is the one that states that the struggle for smartphone market share is not in the handset market, but in the OS market – that is, that whoever wins the smartphone OS market, regardless of hte wnners or losers of the smartphone handset market, is going to be the new Microsoft for the next 20 or so years.

thus, for a handset manufacturer to rely on Android means that, yes, right now they’ll see sales right now, because Android is better than both Meamo or Bada; but the long-term cost is that the same handset manufacturer is relegating themselves to being an OEM in the future.

for a much better and much more in-depth version of this argument, see Tomi Ahonen’s blog, stating with this piece here.

Tailsnake says:

I don’t really understand the logic in building a more robust Symbian or working on Meego when Nokia could just create a fork of Android and essentially have and OS nearly on par with the iPhone (and if they stuck the Ovi store on it rather than the Android Marketplace they wouldn’t even have to bother with Google branded software/hardware specs).
The only worrying things about switching to Android (from Nokia’s perspective) should be the patent issues HTC faced and lack of internal expertise, both of which are pretty minor compared to sticking with Symbian and continuing to bleed customers while hoping that Meego will save them.

coldbrew says:

Re: forking Android

While I agree with the first part of your comment, the second part is a bit off. You’ll notice that Motorla didn’t have the same issues as HTC surrounding patents, and that is because their patent portfolio is quite large. The same is true for Nokia, (in fact, they are currently suing Apple in the US and the UK, I believe).

The sense I’ve gotten is that Nokia is caught in a bureaucratic gridlock having been disrupted by the new entrants in the mobile market over the last ~3 years. I’m not sure it makes sense to bring in a veteran of another large bureaucracy that is only used to being the dominate player in a market in order to right this ship.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I don’t really understand the logic in building a more robust Symbian or working on Meego when Nokia could just create a fork of Android and essentially have and OS nearly on par with the iPhone”

Why would they do that when Maemo already surpasses Android and iPhone in many areas? The platform may not have the developers or market share at the moment, but as Meego fills in the gaps and applies the polish expected with Android and iOS then it may end up the only true smartphone platform. While iPhone developers struggle to even get their apps on the market and Android developers reinvent the wheel for every little thing, Maemo can already run pretty much the whole Debian repository of software with the only hold backs being user interfaces (apply QT) and hardware limitations (Moores law).

As Meego ties together development for tablets, netbooks and phones while giving developers tools to make application portability as painless as possible, the platform has the potential to do stuff none of its competitors can. All it needs is for people to jump on board. If Android damaged Meego in any way it was by being a hype killer. There was so much hype around Google doing a Linux phone, the fact that it was just barely Linux was glossed over.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Are you sure...

Nope. That’s a company coming at the market from an entirely different starting point. HTC had no brand, low global market share, no OS, and makes good phones relatively cheaply. They look to other partners to make a good OS, and build to that spec. With Android, they have grown tremendously. That’s good for them.

If you were a consultant, you would advice Nokia to imitate HTC? You would be a poor consultant, my friend. Nokia is the world’s mobile phone market share leader. They have nothing to win by producing commodity hardware on top of Android. Their shareholders would skewer them for giving up on the key battle – for a winning OS.

Now, I agree that Nokia currently sucks, and probably won’t succeed at producing a relevant smartphone OS for 2010, but a “long shot” is the right play to call. The alternative is just giving up.

I agree entirely with the VP’s metaphor of “peeing in the pants to keep warm”. They need to build a fire instead…but can they?

Anonymous Coward says:

First off, Nokia is quite competitive globally, not so much here in the US but we are just part of the overall market.

I tend to disagree with his comment though as computer manufacturers still seem to be able to sell profits even though they don’t own the operating system. It is a nice trick that Apple can compare their computers and OS to Microsoft and insult Dell or Gateway. Then again, what is Apple’s market share?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Agree with the last point. What the Nokia guy seems to want is to control the leading operating system AND be the exclusive hardware platform for it. This is fantasy land. No-one is going to be in that position. The leading operating system will be “open” (at least in the sense that MS windows is open) and will have multi-vendor support. The leading “propretary” OS will be below 10% market share and its manufacturer will probably be no better than no. 3 in hardware market share )(and will have to keep running really fast just to stand still – like Apple).

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“What the Nokia guy seems to want is to control the leading operating system”

No, they want to control their implementation. The Meego platform is governed by the Linux foundation, not Nokia. For Nokia this means that their hardware can be mixed with their software for the least amount of effort and no strings attached. It makes more sense for Google to want to control the platform as they don’t make phones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good Thing He Is Going

This Nokia VP has failed to recognize the process of the commodification of the complements. Sure Android is going to take over. It is good enough now and free. As the network effects continue, it will just get better and stay free. The fact that this VP cannot see all this happening means that he cannot make good decisions. Executives are hired to make good decisions. Nokia will do well to be rid of him as soon as possible.

Nokia had better start appointing executives who make good decisions, otherwise they are doomed. Steve Jobs is going to take the high end away from them and the Chinese are going to take the low end away. When Jobs and the Chinese meet up, bye bye Nokia.

xs (profile) says:

Re: Good Thing He Is Going

He’s referring to what will happen to the handset manufacturers, not how the consumers would like such a thing. Just look at the PC market, all hardware makers who use Windows OS are operating on razor thin margins from their PC making operations. If Android in mobile market become what Windows is to PC market, PC makers of today is what’s going to happen to phone makers of tomorrow.

Nokia would only be accelerating it’s own demise if they jump into the Android crowd. Because in that world, high end is still taken by Apple, and low end taken by the Chinese.

droslovinia (profile) says:

“It is a nice trick that Apple can compare their computers and OS to Microsoft and insult Dell or Gateway. Then again, what is Apple’s market” cap?

Why must everything be about Apple? This is article about Nokia’s dissing Android developers! And, BTW, I think that North America represents a pretty significant market, especially for higher-end hardware. Yes, we do have blinders on, where we forget the rest of the world, but if Nokia’s not feeling the pain right now, why would they bother to talk about ‘Droid at all?


Re: It's a new world out there.

The discussion is about mobile. You can’t ignore Apple and what they have done to alter the situation. This is no longer about crappy phones that are given away for free and then merely tolerated. Apple has raised the bar and altered expectations. Android is a part of that new framework. They may or may not be able to compete with Apple on it’s own terms but they are part of the new reality.

This new reality seems to be something Nokia wants to ignore.

Android is a more open version of Apple. They’re the Windows/Linux equivalent for phones. They are another alternative to Nokia’s mediocre shovelware. They will be something else that people flee to when people get sick of Nokia’s bad interfaces.

I am one of those Nokia refugees. I’m really not surprised by their attitude here. They are a dinosaur too slow to realize the comet has already hit.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's a new world out there.

“If Nokia were to embrace Android they could more or less maintain their current hardware dominance.”

I don’t see how that follows. Nokia have nothing developed for Android; if they entered the market now then they would be at a severe disadvantage against those who have invested in the platform.

Joe Magly (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The comment went a bit of track but it is an appropriate comparison.

The Smartphone market is very quickly beginning to look like the PC market in the 90’s.

A commodity OS (Windows) that can run on any PC completely dominated the PC market against Apple’s all in one solution with limited flexibility but in some cases better usability.

Hardware makers utilizing windows had the further advantage of not having to mess with the overhead of developing and maintaining proprietary operating systems (combined with other factors) allowing them to bring systems to market at lower price points.

Of course this is a over-simplification of the history of that market however it is quite easy to see some stark parallels.

What will be interesting is how the fragmentation problem finally shakes things out. At least with Windows you had one code base and one unified OS. Android being OSS makes for many different flavors across the market. Whether this will ultimately hurt Android or simply be a stumbling block remains to be seen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Nokia / Symbian

Not what wiki says.

It says there it is build around XNU that uses elements from FreeBSD.

Inside the Mac OS X Kernel

Abstract: Many buzzwords are associated with Mac OS X: Mach kernel, microkernel, FreeBSD kernel, C++, 64 bit, UNIX… and while all of these apply in some way, “XNU”, the Mac OS X kernel is neither Mach, nor FreeBSD-based, it’s not a microkernel, it’s not written in C++ and it’s not 64 bit – but it is UNIX… but just since recently. This talk intends to clear up the confusion by presenting details of the Mac OS X kernel architecture, its components Mach, BSD and I/O-Kit, what’s so different and special about this design, and what the special strengths of it are.

So to settle this I will just say it is POSIX compliant LoL

Jimr (profile) says:

Nokia is not able to advance easily.

I like nokia cell phones because they are phone first.
But Nokia is definitely falling behind – the graphics are poor and the user interface is poor.

They have some big bonus though:
Ovi Maps is free (and accessible with no data plan)
The sound quality is fantastic
They offer lots of extra’s for free.

Too bad all the ‘extra’ stuff that is free is surrounded by such a poor designed interface and sub standard graphics.

The other problem is that new (and hip) developers are going iPhone market. So the best apps are first coming on the iPhone and then the Android. Nokia’s poor graphics and user interface does not make a good platform for these nice new fancy apps. My nokia has a front and back facing camera but Video Skype is no longer support on my Phone and Nokia’s WiFi Video calling software has a piss poor membership and lack up cross software calling.

My current Nokia does everything I need of it and I do not need an expensive data plan to use those features. I COULD by a iPhone or other smart phone but my monthly cell bill would double (plus taxes). Not worth it in my books – I can live will a little clunky user interface and I have my iPod Touch for playing games on the go.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Nokia is not able to advance easily.

Ovi Maps is free (and accessible with no data plan)

Are the maps included in the program or are they downloaded via wi-fi?

If it’s the latter, that’s not an advantage at all, just a nice feature that everyone else has. Neither Apple’s nor Google’s mobile map apps require a data plan or a GPS. Apple even made it available on the iPod touch at some point (my 4th gen with 4.1 has it, not sure about previous versions or devices).

The phones themselves requiring a data plan to activate can be an issue, but there are ways around that for both iOS and Android, the easiest being to cancel the data plan immediately after purchasing the phone (I know this works with T-Mobile, but I don’t think you’d have any luck doing that with an iPhone and/or AT&T).

Overcast (profile) says:

My current Nokia does everything I need of it and I do not need an expensive data plan to use those features. I COULD by a iPhone or other smart phone but my monthly cell bill would double (plus taxes).

With you 100% there. The phone in general just annoys me. The last thing I want to do is spend more time messing with it.

‘Games’ on a phone don’t cut it for a long-time gamer like myself. I don’t want to play Tetris or whatever silly little games they make for them.

Just give me a simple phone that works. I have a Blackberry, only because work provides it. The email’s ok I guess, but I only use it if I have to. I’m pretty apt to just shut the phone off and toss it in the console of the car half the time anyway. If I’m not home, chances are – I don’t have the desire to be on the phone anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

What your phone does for you and how happy you are with your current basic phone has nothing at all to do with where the market is going or what will win long term.

I used to believe that texting was a passing fad, I used to believe that social networking was a waste of time for B2B companies. I didn’t understand those things because I was not in the target demographics. I still don’t do those things much but now I understand the value and where things are going.

We are undergoing a major shift in how people go about their lives. Change is a constant but things are moving mobile, moving to the cloud. Companies are working on systems that will decide what needs to be done locally and what can be done in the cloud. With that, a mobile devise will be more powerful than any desktop computer. Things are changing and I believe that the Nokia exec doesn’t want to get turned into tomorrows Dell. I can understand that thinking. Android is an open system and Apple is a closed system. I think that both will prosper but Apple will keep their high end and end up with marketshare about what they have with their computers. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. I doubt that Jobs really wants 100% of the marketplace, I think he is very happy with a small market share at very high profit levels. With their margins, they don’t need volume, they just need to capture that high end, which they are quite adept at doing.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You are so wrong. That quote was great. Brief, and cuts to the chase about Nokia’s OS strategy predicament.

All their in-house OSes suck, but if they get on board with Android, they will enjoy short-term growth, at the expense of long-term marginalization to commodity vendor in a market crowded with cheap Chinese vendors.

This is an existentially important quandary for Nokia – the biggest player in a massive industry – and at the heart of their current struggles, their shrinking market share, even worse market revenue share, executive turnover, and stock price.

And you write it off as nothing. You, sir, have outdone yourself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I believe you are doing a disservice to any client of yours with that talk the reason is simple, Android like many open source projects can be used to create something new, it reduces the cost in time for development and create a start base where differences can be added on like Samsung is trying to do right now and they are another big player on the field, Android and iOS has already beaten Symbian there is no arguing there and to hold on to a looser is risky.

Apple got all the parts for their iOS from other places they just put it together in a better way and added some new cool things they didn’t develop something from nothing and that is what will be needed to recreate a new symbian, besides Apple also reduces its cost collaborating in open projects that free them to work in other aspects of their software stack, Samsung is doing something very similar and others are starting to realize that too.

Apple and Samsung have thousands of employee’s they don’t need to pay and that will deliver the best they can do for free how will Nokia beat that having to develop everything expending more and not being able to keep up with the other players?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh, my! I did not say that Nokia should remain wed to Symbian.

When you say:
“Android and iOS has already beaten Symbian there is no arguing there and to hold on to a looser is risky.”

You imply that I would advise them to stick with Symbian in their battle against iOS and Android. Nothing of the sort. I wrote directly above, “All their in-house OSes suck.” Not exactly a strong endorsement.

I think Nokia needs to radically clean up shop, get rid of pretty much everything, and start from scratch. Hire the best people, take advantage of the best freely available open options out there as starting points, and get rid of the Chinese walls between hardware and software. In so doing, they might produce a mobile OS worthy of 2010-2015.

That said, I don’t think they will, but I think they should.

Your suggestion that they adopt open platforms and “skin” them is a weak differentiator, and quite possibly delivers negative value to the end user. Do users really benefit because Motorola offers “Motoblur”, SonyEricsson offers “Timescape”, and HTC offers “Sense” on their phones? Or is that just a desperate attempt to avoid commoditization on a commodity product? All three skins do pretty much the same thing, but have different looks. And all three just make it more difficult for developers to make compatible widgets. And worse, all three just make it far slower for the phone owners to get valuable system updates from Google.

I don’t see how inserting negative value into the Android device value-chain is a good long-term play for Nokia. They need to deliver the next best thing. The next iPhone.

I agree completely when you write, “Apple got all the parts for their iOS from other places they just put it together in a better way and added some new cool things they didn’t develop something from nothing and that is what will be needed to recreate a new symbian.” Nokia should do the same, with the advantage of doing it 4 years later.

Nokia is the industry’s 800 pound gorilla. If they did something good, they have the market power to dominate. Sadly, that’s a big IF.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Something I wrote in July

In July, GigaOmPro (paid section) had an article by Kevin Tofel advocating Nokia embracing Android over current Nokia OSes.

I disagreed vehemently, with the following comment:

[Yes, Nokia’s Maemo and Symbian aren’t up to par with leading mobile OSes, but adopting Android] …is only better than the status quo: Nokia cannot survive by offering second-rate, years-late mobile OSes that are notably inferior to the best-in-class. Adopting Android would be far better than this.

However, if you do look at who the big winners are (and you mention them) they are Apple and Google. The key to being powerful in this new ecosystem is NOT in hardware, but rather in owning the OS, the service layers, the application marketplace, and the user mindshare. Adopting Android is tantamount to “throwing in the towel”. For a boxer, this only makes sense if it avoids an inevitable beating, and so, too, for Nokia.

No, they had better bet the farm on owning a top notch integrated hardware/software experience, just as Apple does. And I agree that (given recent performance) this is anything but a slam-dunk, even at a 15% probability of success, it’s worth the chance.

And we don’t have to look far to see a similar industrial model: The PC industry is very informative to the current smartphone value chain. The hardware ALWAYS quickly becomes a commodity, while the OS, applications, and service layers retain value and profitability. Apple has shown that in PCs as well as phones, an integrated quality experience can command a high profit. Gateway, Compaq and a hundred dead PC companies shine a contrasting semaphore for H/W commoditization woes.

And the tragedy of this all is that Nokia was very early to spot the importance of owning and participating in the service layers above the OS. They have tried various strategic initiatives since year 2000 (Symbian, Maemo, Preminet, Club Nokia, Ovi, Navteq…) to be an important part of the software and apps sector, but have never had a slam-dunk. Perhaps it is because all their efforts have always been partial, disjointed, and they have never bet “all the marbles” and lined their formidable resources around a single effort at winning.

Either way, Android, for Nokia, is admission of defeat. And their shareholders would skewer them for throwing in the towel this early in the fight.

Derek Kerton

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Something I wrote in July

I rather admit defeat early on and move on to adopt something better and keep trying to create something great than to hold on to a loosing proposition.

Apple got onboard with Linux and was suscefull in differentiating themselves from the normal Linux distributions, and the iOS is the same thing why can’t Nokia do the same?

Because of some perceived “loose scenario” that is…is…is something LoL

MrBeck (profile) says:

Nokia has twice the smartphone market share of Apple

Nokia has the largest market share for smartphones in the world, twice that of Android (2nd) and iPhone (3rd). The E-Series is my choice, probably not a smartphone on this blog as they do not have touchscreens, but they do have SIP client built in, and satnav with local maps, and keys, real live keys. Phones that work as phones (even have noise canceling mikes)and can be operated in winter (with gloves on), with one hand. I have never seen a fart app though so maybe not really a smartphone.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Their Linux phone is the bomb

“Why, oh why, didn’t they just stick with Maemo? Having a portable bash shell rocks, plus the weight of the open source community to develop apps… their only misstep was pricingt the N900 into the stratosphere. I loved my N810. :(“

The main difference between Meego and Maemo is that Meego is better. I have Maemo on my N900 and plan to replace it with Meego ASAP. I often use the bash shell and will continue to do so in Meego.

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