Nokia-Microsoft: 'A certain road to death'

A former Nokia exec calls out Nokia CEO

A former Nokia executive is calling the Finnish cell phone maker's Windows Phone strategy "a certain road to death," according to his analysis of 18 months of UK market share data.

Tomi Ahonen, a very prominent voice in the mobile ecosystem, and former Segmentation Manager with Nokia, posted a scathing article decrying the Nokia and Microsoft partnership falling far short of expectations.

"Remember that joke about when you add two turkeys, you do not get an eagle?" Ahonen rhetorically queries. Apparently the two turkeys of Nokia and Microsoft didn't even stay in the bird class.

"When you add all the power of Nokia with all the power of Microsoft, and toss in the smartphone brilliance also of Samsung, HTC, LG etc--you go from 39% [market share] separately, to 14% when combined. Two turkeys make a... what? A turtle that is what this looks like."

Mixed metaphors aside, Ahonen makes a pretty convincing case for the failure of Nokia-Microsoft, based on UK market shares from Kantar Worldpanel. After compiling the data from the most recent report, Ahonen was able to note the share percentages of four important milestones in the recent history of Nokia.

At the start of his analysis, Ahonen notes that the UK market share for Symbian and Maemo phones combined in September 2010 (just prior to the Microsoft partnership) was 23.1 percent. One year later, just before the launch of the Lumia, the Symbian-only UK market share for Nokia devices was down to 6.7 percent. And the latest numbers? After Lumia was on the market for four months, the February 2012 combined Symbian and Windows Phone UK market share for Nokia was 4.6 percent.

Based on this data, Ahonen concludes that even the marginally expected outcome--that Symbian users would replace their devices with Windows Phone devices in a one-to-one exchange--didn't even happen, since one-third of Nokia users moved to other devices Between September 2011 and February 2012.

"When Nokia shifted from 'the obsolete' Symbian to 'the awesome' Windows Phone, Nokia lost a third of its customers! In just one quarter! Yes. That is how toxic the 'magnificent' Windows Phone is," Ahonen wrote.

Ahonen takes a lot of time berating his former employer on their decisions since Stephen Elop came on board, and also advocating a familiar open source platform as a better alternative: the N9 smartphone, which runs the Linux-based MeeGo operating system.

According to earlier research Ahonen performed on Q4 2011 data, Nokia's Windows Phone Lumia device sold an estimated 600,000 globally in 2011 Q4. Based on estimates on sales at the same time--in nations with far less marketing and income--Nokia's N9 sold somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million units in the same time period.

Since the N9 (and a sister device, the N950) are made completely by Nokia and more consistently rated higher than the Lumia series (even though the N series devices are more expensive), Ahonen argues, "[o]nly a fool of a CEO would refuse to sell the N9 and N950 today globally."

If Ahonen's analysis is correct, or even in the ballpark, this represents a staggering amount of tunnel vision on the part of Nokia for abandoning MeeGo (and Maemo before it) in favor of a Microsoft-focused strategy. Yes, MeeGo was a platform that needed a little more work, but even in its unfinished state, MeeGo-based devices may still be selling more than Windows Phone smartphones.

Is this the end of Nokia? If they continue with Microsoft, Ahonen thinks so. But maybe the hope of MeeGo, or the new Tizen, platforms can be the lifeline that Nokia seems to desperately need.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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