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Ex-Nokia exec shifts blame to Elop for drop in phones

updated 12:30 pm EDT, Thu April 26, 2012

Nokia's Lee Williams skips Symbian in decline

Former Nokia and later Symbian Foundation executive Lee Williams in an interview Wednesday blamed current CEO Stephen Elop for the company's current troubles. The former Symbian S60 Senior VP told CNET that Elop had "no overarching vision," allegedly unlike his predecessors. Before him, Nokia was purportedly always focused on the future and would "never give up" its stance as the lead.

"Elop is operating like a CFO," Williams argued. "CFOs are very practical, always looking at costs, always internally focused... I don't think he's really projecting anything forward or sitting around with his team imaging what the future looks like."

To Williams, there was no practical motivation to "change course so frantically" and switch from Symbian to Windows Phone, alluding to Elop's view that Nokia was on a burning platform through its clinging to Symbian. The issue was instead that Nokia was "executing poorly" on what was already underway. Windows Phone wasn't unwelcome, but it shouldn't have started phasing out Symbian or scaling back MeeGo and sabotage what was still a core product, the former Nokia veteran said.

He did agree with Elop Android wasn't an option, as it was allegedly "less capable" than a few of the options inside Nokia and didn't give the company much room to stand out in a "highly fragmented" ecosystem. Windows Phone was still short, however, as it was supposedly behind Nokia's own Symbian devices and couldn't yet use technology like the 41-megapixel PureView sensor, which exists only in a Symbian phone so far.

Windows Phone 8 might help, but Microsoft was notorious for a "just wait" mentality where the vital missing feature was always in the next version, Williams argued. Nokia had its own problems with delays, where it would delay products by weeks solely to get a slight savings on parts, but it wasn't the software at fault in this view.

While some have accused Elop of trying to reward his former employer and of panicking, Williams' comments also sidestep what some have seen as a failing company culture that Elop inherited during the Symbian era. In 2009, while Williams was still heading Symbian initiatives, Nokia reportedly assumed the iPhone would naturally fail and that it had to do nothing to change its strategy. Market share decline for Nokia started in earnest within one to two years after the iPhone's 2007 launch and was compounded when Android took off in earnest in 2010, around when Elop became CEO. Symbian at the time still had few optimizations for touch and had interface layers that made little sense for the user, such as a prompt for a connection type whenever the owner tried to do something online.

Stephen Elop (left) shakes hands with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer after the Windows Phone deal

by MacNN Staff



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