Is Nokia's platform burning again?

Has Nokia turned the corner? Investors aren't convinced

I wrote a poem!

Elop stood on the burning deck / facing angry shareholders /

"It's Windows Phone or nowt!" he cried /

as he tried to dodge the boulders

Things at Nokia are going from bad to verse, it seems.


Investors in Nokia aren't happy. The firm's smartphones aren't doing the numbers they'd like, and those sales aren't making up for the catastrophic decline in feature phone sales.

No, this article isn't coming at you from 2011: two years after Stephen Elop's famous "burning platform" memo, Nokia's platform feels awfully warm again.

The problem is pretty simple. Nokia has bet the farm on Windows Phone, and the bet hasn't paid off yet. That doesn't mean it won't pay off eventually, but investors aren't famed for their patience - and while Nokia's sales are improving, there's still a long way to go and success isn't guaranteed. Nokia certainly wouldn't be the first firm to discover that strategic partnerships with Microsoft don't always end well.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," one shareholder told Elop this week. "Please switch to another road."

By "another road", of course, the investor means Android.

One trick pony?

Investors are worried that Nokia has backed the wrong horse, and that trying to make the best Windows Phones doesn't necessarily mean making the best phones.

The reviews do seem to back that up: the Lumia 720 is great but "some may be put off that it's rocking Windows Phone 8 over Android". The Lumia 820 is great but "the app selection still handicaps Windows 8 devices" (although that is improving. This week, Windows Phone finally got a YouTube app). The Lumia 920 is great but the OS is "clunky at times."

Nokia can perfect its hardware, but it can't do much about the OS - so if the OS is the weak point, investors ask, why not try another OS? That doesn't mean abandoning Windows Phone. It just means using, say, Android as insurance in case Windows Phone isn't a magic bullet.

You've got to admit, they have a point. Nokia doesn't have a Plan B, but its rivals do: if Samsung, Huawei and HTC can't persuade people to buy their Windows Phone 8 devices, they have plenty of Android alternatives. If Nokia can't, there's nothing else in the cupboard.

Back in 2011, I described Nokia's embrace of Windows Phone as an act of "sod it! Let's go to THE MOON!" bravery. I still think that's the case, but I do hope its moonshot doesn't fall short - because if it does, Nokia hasn't packed a parachute.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.