Nokia CEO and board need to go, Jean Louis Gassée says

July 4, 2012
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Nokia is a fallen giant that’s trying to get back atop the mobile business, a position it held for years before the smartphone revolution caught it unprepared. Apple initiated the revolution, by introducing a touchscreen-only device that impressed the crowds and started selling like hot cakes. And then Android came out of hiding, and OEMs launched a variety of Android-based devices, also touchscreen based and capable to run various apps like the iPhone, that fitted any budget.

Nokia was not able to properly fight either rival OS. The company tried to make a comeback a bunch of times and ultimately decided to stick with Microsoft and create Windows Phone handsets, a move that’s yet to prove profitable for the Finnish handset maker.

Except for Windows Phone devices, Nokia doesn’t have any viable products right now, and maybe a plan B is needed for the company. Jean Louis Gassée certainly seems to thing so, and he’s not afraid to say it.

Before we take a look at the Nokia-related statements he made, we’ll remind you who Gassée is, because, in case you don’t know the guy, he’s quite famous. In the 70s he built HP in Europe and then joined Apple where he acted as a senior executive from 1981 to 1990. In fact, he was at some point considered to take over the CEO position of Apple, but that never happened. One could say the guy knows his business and is quite versed in what’s happening in the smart device business, whether it’s smartphones, tablets or computers.

Gassée, now a partner at venture capital company Allegis Capital, believes that Elop, and the entire Nokia board, should be fired and replaced. A few years ago he made a similar call when Nokia asked him for advise regarding the path it should follow in this continously changing mobile environment. At the time, Gasse said it was time for Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the former CEO of Nokia, to go and for Nokia to embrace Android as a viable alternative for the future:

“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.”

However, Nokia fired Kallasvuo, hired Elop and then decided to partner up with Microsoft and launch Windows Phone handsets instead of making Android smartphones with Google.

Now the same Gassée is saying that Elop needs to be replaced, for making bad business choices, and the board too, for letting him do it. Elop is basically “accused” of having unwillingly torpedoed the company, first by releasing an internal memo to the company in which it compared Symbian to a burning oil rig in the North Sea that Nokia needed to escape from – not necessarily a bad argument at the time, but one that harmed Nokia once the memo was leaked. Symbian had no future, and everyone knew it, but Elop said it all too soon.

The partnership with Microsoft should have helped Nokia get back on the horse, but that didn’t really happen. The Lumia family of Windows Phones are probably the best Windows Phones devices out there, but they won’t be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8 this fall, which already makes them obsolete. This is Elop’s second mistake according to Gassée.

On the other hand we see plenty of analysts, pundits and fans of one platform of the other make all sorts of accusations and speculate on what it could have been if certain things were to happen. Sure, Gassée’s arguments are probably more than valid, but that doesn’t mean that Elop will be fired as a result, or that Nokia would make Android devices. Or that Nokia’s future Windows Phone business will not become a very profitable venture.

Would you buy a Nokia Android smartphone rather than a Nokia Windows Phone handset?

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