New Nokia Head: We're on a 'Burning Platform'

Nokia is on a "burning platform" and needs to make critical decisions that will enable the mobile phone giant to survive, the Finnish company's new CEO said in an email to the troops that leaked to the press on Tuesday.

The memo to employees by recently-appointed CEO Stephen Elop roundly criticized the myriad of mistakes he feels Nokia management made that brought the company to the edge of the precipice after being on top for years, and pushed them all to work together to put Nokia back on track.

He also hinted of big announcements coming at the end of this week.

Elop started his email with a metaphor likening Nokia to a man trapped on a burning oil platform in the North Sea with the choice of jumping into the frigid waters or staying on the burning platform.

"In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times -- his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a 'burning platform' caused a radical change in his behavior," Elop's email said.

A Nokia spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Gadget enthusiasts' site Engadget obtained a copy of the email from a source and published it online.

The leaked memo comes just days after a European stock analyst suggested that Nokia and Microsoft should partner on putting Windows Phone 7 on Nokia smartphones.

Additionally, it comes just two days before Elop presents his vision of a major revamp of the company's strategies and tactics at a Financial and Strategy Briefing in London on Friday.

Part of that vision may include Microsoft, although Elop specifically did not mention the software giant in his memo. He did come to Nokia, though, from his previous job as president of Microsoft's Business Division, which includes Microsoft Office, last September.

He was brought on board in order to transform, and ultimately save, Nokia, which has slipped significantly in marketplace position in recent years.

"While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind," Elop said.

He cited iPhone's explosive success as having caught Nokia off balance, and the sudden attraction of the market to Google's Android having caused more havoc. Meanwhile, Nokia focused on its own offering, Symbian to its detriment -- the language itself a harbinger of something new in the offing.

"Symbian ... has proven to be non-competitive in leading markets like North America. Additionally, Symbian is proving to be an increasingly difficult environment in which to develop to meet the continuously expanding consumer requirements, leading to slowness in product development and also creating a disadvantage when we seek to take advantage of new hardware platforms," Elop added.

He described the new battleground as a major shift from a "battle of devices" to a "war of ecosystems."

"Ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem," he said.

"This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyze or join an ecosystem. In the meantime, we've lost market share, we've lost mind share and we've lost time."


Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.



Microsoft, mobile, Nokia, Windows Phone 7, mobile os