Jean-Louis Gassée, a former Apple executive (1981-1990), the founder of the BeOS computer operating system and former PalmSource chairman, had a word of advice for Nokia, the struggling Finnish cellphone vendor. Hiring Stephen Elop as its CEO was an expensive mistake, he argued, as this former Microsoftie has basically destroyed Nokia’s software platforms before new devices reached the marketplace. At the rate of cash bleeding going on at Nokia, I wonder how long the company can afford to ignore its cardinal mistake and keep Elop on board…

In an exclusive interview with Computing, the Silicon Valley investor revealed he told the Nokia board to fire Stephen Elop and adopt Android instead of Microsoft’s Windows Phone:

I think that Elop will have to go, but I also think that the board also needs to be renewed with people who have an understanding and working knowledge of the mobile industry.

Also, this:

He has zero experience in terms of what makes a smartphone maker tick. And what is his experience in supply chain management? Zero.


In hindsight, the board should have followed the advice, even if it meant lesser differentiation in the crowded Android space. Android’s popularity, maturity and Google’s backing coupled with Nokia’s reach, brand recognition and manufacturing capabilities would have enabled Nokia to quickly hit the ground running again instead of having to jump off the burning platform into the cold waters.

Gassée was also “shocked” that the board allowed Elop to obsolete first the Symbian platform and then Windows Phone 7-driven Nokia devices. For example. the new Lumia 900 and Lumia 800 handsets and older Windows Phone handsets would not get the Windows 8 update and apps built for Windows Phone 8 will not be backwards compatible.

Microsoft can do that with new versions of Windows; IBM used to do that in the olden days. But I’m shocked that the board of Nokia allowed Elop to do that.

No wonder Nokia is mulling plan B should the Windows 8 bet prove an another failure.

The thing that struck me the most in this article is how Nokia actually hired Gassée to do consultancy work, yet ignored his advice out of fear of “losing control over their destiny”:

I told them to drop everything and go Android. Do it in secret and let the rumours fly… I would have used Nokia’s design flare to make very nice phones. I would integrate Ovi [Nokia’s app store] into Android and people would say that Nokia sided with the winner.

It would have been tough fighting Samsung, though, because Samsung takes no prisoners. They don’t brush their teeth in the morning – they file them.

Influential analyst Tomi Ahonen, a former Nokia executive, has been one of the most vocal critics of Stephen Elop, who left Microsoft last year to rescue Nokia in CEO capacity. Ahonen is convinced that Elop secretly serves as Microsoft’s Trojan horse tasked with devaluing the once great cell phone giant so that Redmond could buy it for peanuts and become a handset maker, like Google.

I’ve long maintained that Nokia is in danger of following BlackBerry maker Research In Motion which is nearing the end of its road amid financial woes and hemorrhaging market share, now heading to zero in the United States.

But unlike RIM, Nokia is executing its software strategy and putting out new phones. RIM on the other hand just announced its BlackBerry 10 operating system and devices running it would be delayed until 2013, with its CEO re-iterating the new platform would rock.

So, Nokia, Elop and the burning platform mistake.

Who knew, eh?

  • MarkC514

    Great article Christian, but I think you have a typo: “Ahonen is convinced that Ahonen is Microsoft’s Trojan horse “

  • even if nokia changes to android, do you think they can come up to as apple or others?

    • LUFC_MOT

      Seriously? If there’s one thing Nokia can do it’s build quality handsets out of quality materials, their cameras are another thing, the mighty iPhone will never match them for cameras, same goes for Sony as both make cameras that out perform anything Apple can buy. The major problem with Nokia has always been their OS, at least when it comes to smartphones and if they ran Android they could easily do well in the market.

    • don’t forget android is the most popular os in the world even in the US,it’s about business, it’s all about money

  • SimonReidy

    Its obviously not looking good, but I don’t think the relationship is dead in the water just yet. Given Microsoft have just announced that Windows 8 will only be $40 on the PC, for XP owners and up, there will soon be a ton of Windows 8 desktop, notebook and tablet owners out there, as its a no brainer upgrade at that price and of course it will be also be bundled with all new PCs too. Then many Windows8 users will start to see that a Windows 8 mobile device would match their PC much better in a lot of ways than an iOS or Android device. Just as OSX is becoming more and more like iOS to encourage cross-adoption.

    That’s the theory for a lot of regular users (that want things kept simple anyway).

    I love my iPad2 and and iPhone4, andI’m interested in some Nokia technology like the PureView 808 (41 megapixel sensor produces stunning photos) so if they continue to bring out well built hardware with awesome cameras they might stand a chance. However, personally I’d rather iOS or Android on my phone.

  • Dude looks scary like he would be a Sandusky…also what is beos I never heard of it?

  • Best in dr0000p test : Nokia
    Stunning quality built with user friendly and good material
    Easiest OS : IOS
    Even my kids know how to use it
    Iphone looks great with glass
    Dr00p it and you will understand what is “ouch” If only Nokia can chg their n0000b OS

    • iOS is a very friendly OS, but back in 2003 Symbian OS released apps and games that only recently app store is releasing, games with engine with augmented reality for example, the problem is there was too much that time, their hardware was very resistente and their phone’s cameras with 1.3MP were better than some 5MP digital cameras with digital zoom, the problem is apple got the attention and pleased us something new in the market that got our attention

      • I love Nokia , the only thing they must change = OS
        I’m not saying I’m pro in OS but as a user, i found that IOS is the best OS in terms of smoothness , ( also the best touch screen experience combine with tons of apps in the app store )
        I’m using Nokia N8 , Ipad and Ipod ~I love how N8 handle my picture , However, smartphone require good apps , look at OVI store ..HOLY ****
        “BEST” apps market ever exist

      • zeebras

        iOS just simply sucks. It’s an OS like old Nokia Symbian phones with a boring vertical app list, holding the phone vertical all the time.

        Main difference is that browser was slightly better, although shit compared to Nokia N900.

        Apple ripped Nokia apart and created a market that desired Smartphones that were shitty vertical units with the main screen being a list of icons and apps to compensate for a browser that was unable to perform anything useful.

      • App is important, /Symbian just lack of developer’s support~ but why? coz that shitty OS consume so much ram before i could run anymore apps (especially multitasking) at the same time~

      • zeebras

        I never said Symbian was great. It is very stable and clean though.

        Personally I prefer Maemo (not Meego). Any system for mobile devices so far is ridiculous and poor in comparison.

        And btw, apps only became important because the the browser was so bad in the first place. All the apps in the beginning was apps compensating for the lack of the ability of the browser to perform the desired actions.

        Programs, like for any computers are important yes. But most mobile “apps” for Android and iphone is just simple minded garbage for consumers who do not know to demand more. low quality garbage.

      • well said,meego, wonder why they just dont focus on 1 OS like android / iOS..look at Symbian, meego,anna, belle..

  • yes nokia kick samsungs ass go with the advice and dominate samsung

    i used to be a huge fan of nokia until the iphone came out

  • Ali Aledany

    yes nokia kick samsungs ass go with the advice and dominate samsung

    i used to be a huge fan of nokia until the iphone came out

  • The problem I’ve seen with Nokia is that they haven’t been able to keep to an OS. Symbian, Meego, these had strong and weak points to them but nonetheless they were good operating systems, especially the latter in my opinion hiwever short lived it was. They were also too late to compete with Apple by not creating anything that was really noteworthy. Yes there was the lumia range, but customers in general like to boast about power. With the lumia 800 for example there was very little to boast about. Though im not damning the quality of their phones, Nokia are known to make durable phones.

  • Oh and fire Elop. He’s a waste

  • BoardDWorld

    Meego was really something, Elop killed Nokia when he killed Meego. I really like going out checking out new mobiles, most particularly the OS features. It’s so dam boring these days…

  • javierE186

    Truth be told this is the best article you have written on this site, hope the trend can continue.

  • Osman Ali

    IT quote of the year:
    “Samsung takes no prisoners. They don’t brush their teeth in the morning – they file them.” — Gassée

  • Joe_HTH

    “Android’s popularity, maturity and Google’s backing coupled with Nokia’s
    reach, brand recognition and manufacturing capabilities would have
    enabled Nokia to quickly hit the ground running again instead of having
    to jump off the burning platform into the cold waters.”

    ROTFLMAO! Another ignorant tool. If Android is such a savior, then why is every single Android OEM, with the exception of Samsung, sinking like a anchor? Every single Android OEM is either struggling and/or losing money.

    • symbolset

      Samsung’s share of Android device is only a third. So what you’re saying is that Android is sucking trillions of dollars a year out of other manufacturers and they are investing in continuing this course at an ever-increasing rate. That seems a little counter-intuitive.