Nokia has been feeling the heat in the super-heated smart phone market, loosing share to Apple iPhone and Google Android devices, even in its dominant home market (Europe) and also in fast growing markets (e.g., China). And it has virtually no share of the North American market. Nokia has largely failed to respond to the competition with new and compelling products. Now, speculation is that Nokia’s board is looking for a new CEO. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s time for Nokia to explore a new direction, and if that means new leadership, so be it.
What would I recommend a new Nokia leadership do? It’s time to completely re-evaluate your strategy. A key part of this change of strategy should be the divestiture of your almost total reliance on the Symbian operating system. Business users, the core of the smart phone market, are abandoning the Symbian OS for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry. Your reliance on Symbian is unsustainable if you want to turn around your shrinking market share in smartphones. And the increasing share of Android-based devices coming to market in BRIC countries from Nokia’s competitors means that you will have strengthening competition in these critical growth markets.
I believe you need to change your typical executive criteria and not hire someone who is another executive who thinks like the current management team. What you need is an outsider, but someone with a track record in the phone industry and someone who can make some significant changes and who is not afraid to go in and rock the boat. Ideally, that person would be a visionary: someone like those that resurrected Palm (like a Jon Rubenstein) or Motorola (like a Sanjay Jha), or perhaps helped make Google’s Android a success (like an Andy Rubin). What I fear is you will hire an executive manager type rather than a visionary, and if you do that, more of the same is in the offering – shrinking market share, lower margins, and less of a competitive position in the market overall. Sometimes you need a little revolution to wake up a company, and this is your opportunity to do so. Time is of the essence before the market passes you by.
Jack Gold is the founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, an information technology analyst firm based in Northborough, Mass., covering the many aspects of business and consumer computing and emerging technologies.