Innovation: How Nokia followed the way of Kodak out of business

Nokia has conducted a new budget phone debut via Cricket Wireless in the US. The C5 Endi is powered by the MediaTek Helio P22 SoC, has 3GB of RAM and triple rear cameras. It is joined by new SKUs of the C2, which have dual rear cameras this time.

The HMD Global brand Nokia launched the new affordable smartphones in the US. The more premium of these is called the C5 Endi, so as to differentiate it from a 2010 button phone of a very similar name. It boasts triple 13+5+2MP rear cameras in a distinctive wheel-like housing, which are described as enhanced with AI features.

Nokia C5 Endi
Nokia C5 Endi

Today, Nokia is struggling for attention like a new brand. The brand has made an impressive comeback under the leadership of Finnish based HMD Global, who bought the exclusive rights to market the Nokia brand via license in 2017.

The way forward lies in HMD Global recognizing consumer wants and needs while filling gaps in the smartphone market. The new C5 Endi may just be the right step in the right direction.

Arguably, Nokia was not a Tech laggard. On the contrary, Nokia came up with its first set of smartphones in 1996 and built a prototype touchscreen, internet enabled phone towards the end of the 90s, around 1999.

With a touch of class and perfection, Nokia ruled the market till the year 2008. It is authoritative to say that, If you want to blame others for your error, one can safely say that, Android weakened the roots of Nokia. In 2008, when brands like Samsung, HTC and Sony decided to extend their markets. All of them except Nokia were working hard to make better touchscreen phones. Nokia believed touchscreen will soon go out of fashion, or, at least it seemed so.

See also: What to expect, buying a Huawei smartphone in 2020

Therefore, Nokia’s fall can be traced to destructive internal competition and failure to realise the importance of lifestyle products like Apple did with iPhone. By 2013, when the reality dawn on it’s leadership, Nokia ended up selling its mobile devices division to Microsoft. The decision ran it completely into the ground within a few years. 

The Nokia mobile brand officially died after Microsoft bought the company. It took only months for Microsoft to decide that using the Nokia brand meant little and it could walk away from it without offending too many customers or worrying about losing market share. 

Nokia lost because of poor strategic decisions. They were very successful in the simple mobile phone market, but they saw the success of Blackberry, and developed the Symbian OS as a competitor, and grabbed a market share of that.

Android OS started dominating the market but Nokia was in illusion still that consumers wouldn’t accept the changes. Nokia was reluctant towards making a change. Its Symbian Operating System was out-of-date and it needed to shift to other Operating System which wasn’t possible due to the requirement of lots of investment.

It is very evident in the case studies of Nokia and Kodak. Both companies sold products which were of quality and highly durable. Regardless of these attributes, these giants failed miserably only because of the ignorance of customer needs.

Checkout: The era of multiple Rear cameras in smartphones

The later was wrecked by a distruptive technology called digital photography. Kodak was the biggest and the best in photographic film making industry. The company refused to embrace the trend of digital cameras and memory cards replacing films in that sector. And, just like Nokia’s approach to Android, they went bankrupt. 

This strategic failure was the direct cause of Kodak’s decades-long decline as digital photography destroyed its film-based business model. Kodak management’s inability to see digital photography as a disruptive technology, even as its researchers extended the boundaries of the technology, would continue for decades.

Nokia N97 Mini - Symbian series60 OS
Nokia N97 Mini – Symbian series60 OS

In the case of Nokia, Symbian’s business model was basically what Android is today, to provide and license a smartphone operating system that anyone can use, with the technical expertise to get it working on your hardware. It was at the time fairly successful in Europe and Japan. Licensees included Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia and Siemens.

You might be interested in: Why Tecno, Infinix & Itel is dominating the smartphone market in Africa

Basically, every mobile phone manufacturer had a high end Symbian smartphone. You could get Symbian running on fairly modest hardware. It was less hardware hungry than Android. The price to pay was that Symbian used a curious dialect of C++ to write applications, which, although efficient, caused new programmers a steep learning curve.

Nokia in those days was developing phones on 3 different operating systems, Series40 (homegrown), Series60 (Symbian) and Maemo. Maemo was a new Linux+Qt based OS that could have become the future. Series40 was mainly used for cheap feature phones. Series60 was Nokia’s bread-and-butter, high end smartphones that made the most profit.

Nokia was the market leader in mobile phones, and Symbian was the market leader in smartphone sales. What could possibly go wrong?

Nokia figured that paying license fees to an external company that supplied the OS to it’s main competitors wasn’t a smart thing to do. So, for about the sum of licensing fees due in 2-3 years, they gobbled up Symbian, and now owned it outright.

Nokia’s competitors figured that having your OS owned and controlled by your main competitor possibly wasn’t a good plan. If you are Sony Ericsson developing Symbian phones and the Symbian guys are now Nokia guys instead, perhaps, some of your bug fixes might get a lower priority than getting Nokia product. True or not, the thinking was theirs, and one by one Symbian’s licensees dropped out and Android came to the rescue.

Apple had been successful with a single model, the iPhone. Nokia on the other hand believed in “varieties” Some series 40, some series 60, some Maemo phones. There’s a lot of duplication of Engineering effort and not really the razor sharp focus that Apple could have on their single phone.

So, Nokia in their wisdom decided that they too needed “focus”. 3 different OS’s and 52 different phone models wasn’t the way to go. They didn’t want to drop the low-end Series40 phones for fear of losing the emerging markets. So they announced that they’d drop Symbian, their bread and butter phone OS that was selling well and would replace it with Windows Phone.

Nokia Asha 210 series40 phones
Nokia Asha 210 series40

Nokia’s old high-end customers had been using Symbian, for better or worse. There would now no longer be an upgrade path for them. And the future was unclear. So they started to look around and bought other phones, which left Nokia Sales plummeted. From market leader, Nokia dropped down to an ordinary. Apple and Samsung were the new top dogs. Only then did Microsoft step in and bought Nokia out. In an an alternate universe, what could have happened would be that Series40 phones were replaced with Series60/Symbian phones. That would mean the whole line would be running the known quantity of Symbian. There could then be a number of experimental high end phones, perhaps the PureView Symbian phone, another Maemo phone, or maybe an Android phone too.

That was not to be and the world witnessed yet the fall of another super manufacturing giant. The whole setup was ruined when  Microsoft  brought in former Executive member, Stephen Elop as Chief Executive and he masterminded and successfully destroyed all three. While Stephen Elop pushed the company toward Microsoft, he destroyed every platform Nokia had spent years to develop: Symbian, MeeGo and Meltemi.

Unlike Kodak whose Directors have since moved into another business in Aviation and still struggles till date, Nokia remains resolute and still begging for attention in the mobile market. Nokia’s new drive is championed by a Finnish company, HMD Global. They are charging a new course for the former heavyweight.

After the hiatus, the Nokia’s name returned, thanks to HMD, which was backed by FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of manufacturing giant Foxconn.

The new C5 Endi has a 6.5-inch display with a HD+ resolution. It is driven by the Helio P22 processor, which is paired to 3GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC 5.1 memory. It has a 4000mAh battery, whereas the new Nokia C2s have 3000mAh power-packs.

They have 5.45-inch HD+ screens, 2GB of RAM, 32-64GB of internal storage and the Helio A22 SoC. However, they both run Android 10, as does the C5 Endi. All 3 also have polymer rear panels with the brand’s “signature Finnish design”.

Nokia C2
Nokia C2

Nokia characterizes the refreshed C2s as 2 different variants called Tava and Tennen; however, they only differ in terms of their colorways: they come in Tempered Blue and Steel respectively. The C2 Tava is priced at US$109.99, whereas the C2 Tennen is $69.99.

The C5 Endi, on the other hand, is priced at US$169.99. It will be available through Cricket Wireless online or in stores from June 5, 2020.

It remain to be seen how Nokia’s renewed vigour will redeem the trust of their customers who have since experienced the best of Mobile technology since Nokia went into self induced coma.

Give a Comment