I remember my high school days. The iPhone was still a couple of years away and Blackberry was, by far, the most popular phone. If you took a survey of which phones people actually used, I’d be willing to bet that Finnish manufacturer Nokia would be at the top of the heap.
Nokia was the world’s top selling phone maker. They sold a variety of phones for every income bracket. Their phones and Symbian OS were highly praised at a time of bad carrier-branded OS’s.
Then something changed. Apple released the iPhone and turned the phone industry on its head. Users were clamoring for this new “multi-touch” experience. Nokia responded with hubris. They didn’t feel the need to make dramatic changes. They were on top of the world and didn’t see the market making a dramatic shift towards Apple.
They were right in some respects. The iPhone did not sell at the volume (or price) to unseat Nokia, but it didn’t have to. Android’s rise allowed cellular manufacturers to offer many users a low cost experience that rivaled the iPhone. Nokia’s phones and OS were starting to look dated and users began to turn away from them in the US. Europe and India, their last stronghold, followed shortly thereafter.
Nokia needed a change. Fans were clamoring for Nokia to turn to Android. Detractors were telling them to close up shop. Nokia surprised most when they began a partnership with Windows Phone at Microsoft. The young, unproven OS seemed to be a risky bet for the established giant. Symbian engineers left in droves, betrayed by a company that they dedicated their lives to.
The current phones, while good devices, are not selling well. Maybe it’s the unpopular OS or maybe it’s the brands tarnished reputation. Nokia is taking another controversial step to keep itself afloat. According to the Associated Press, Nokia is selling its main office in an effort to cut costs. They will continue to work out of another office in their native Finland.
Nokia’s fall from glory should be a cautionary tale for all companies in the tech industry or not. Do not underestimate your competition. Your position as a market leader is only as strong as your ability to give customers what they want. Here’s hoping that Nokia can get back on its feet and continue to make great devices.
Read [Associated Press]