Tag: stephen elop

Nokia shoots itself in both pheet

Ailing phone company Nokia – now a subsidiary of Microsoft – appears to have looked in the mirror and seen a distorted image of reality after it launched a $500 tablet in Abu Dhabi.

The tablet, named the Lumia 2520, has a 10 inch screen and runs Windows RT. It also includes LTE, if that’s anywhere near you yet.

At the same conference, Nokia-Microsoft introduced three cheap handsets and two absolutely “phabless” phones. The Lumia 1520 and 1320 also run Windows software, with the former set to cost a staggering $750.

Stephen Elop, the former head of Nokia and tipped by some to take over from Steve Ballmer at Vole, came out with a platitude of some size when he said that the Lumia portfolio is growing.  When we say growing, perhaps he meant going, it was hard to hear the din  from this distance.

Presumably Elop has heard of something called the bill of materials….

Nokia readies Abu Dhabi tablet launches

Microsoft subsidiary Nokia will introduce six products at a conference in Abu Dhabi in a bit to spoil Apple’s expected launch of an iPad tomorrow.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the six devices includes a tablet computer and some “phablets” – what a horrid word.

Stephen Elop – tipped by some as a replacement for CEO Steve Ballmer – will host the event.

The tablet Nokia will show off is expected to include LTE and that might give it a chance to compete with Apple.

Nokia, Microsoft must be hoping, will give it some momentum in the market for tablets following its disastrous launch of the Surface RT.

Microsoft was in talks to buy Nokia's handset biz

Although both Microsoft and Nokia have attempted to quash rumours of a takeover since the installation of ex-Microsoft man Stephen Elop as Nokia’s CEO, rumours have emerged that Redmond recently held late-stage talks to dicuss buying the Finnish company’s handset business.

Nokia’s Windows Phones have largely been met with positive reviews, though a lagging app ecosystem and major inroads by Android devices have hampered success. In part thanks to this, Microsoft has been rumoured to be in serious discussion with Nokia to pick up the handset business. However, the Wall Street Journal reports, these talks wound down due to Nokia’s market position and disagreements on pricing.

Some of the talks are rumoured to have taken place as recently as this month, but the WSJ’s insiders have said they are not likely to advance further – at least any time soon.

The price, then, may have simply been too high. Nokia’s handset unit is valued on Wall Street at over $14 billion and made up almost half of the company’s revenue last year.

Although Stephen Elop’s position at Nokia, as well as Nokia’s commitment to Windows devices, post-Symbian, prompted rumour after rumour about a takeover, it is far more likely that the current arrangement suits Redmond better. Elop, loyal in the long-term to Microsoft, is steering Nokia and it is less risky to influence a device unit by proxy rather than outright taking full responsibility.

The company insists that it is still a player – and indeed, its devices have been significantly better since Symbian was ditched. But for now, other phone makers have taken up the fight against Apple with significantly more success than Nokia, specifically by utilising Android. Nokia’s allegiance to Microsoft puts it in a unique market position as an alternative to the iOS and Android mainstream, but ultimately it begs the question: if Nokia had taken up Android, could it have seriously turned around its operations, or ended up as another also-ran?

Nokia raises €170 million by selling off HQ

Nokia is to sell of its headquarters at its Finnish base, raising €170 million for the struggling company.

Phone maker Nokia has agreed a sell and lease plan on its property in Espoo, Finland, creating extra cash for the firm in the short term. 

“We had a comprehensive sales process with both Finnish and foreign investors and we are very pleased with this outcome,”  said Nokia CFO, Timo Ihamuotila. “As we have said before, owning real estate is not part of Nokia’s core business and when good opportunities arise we are willing to exit these types of non-core assets.” 

He added: “We are naturally continuing to operate in our head office building on a long-term basis.”

Selling and then leasing its property back is a tactic also used by another struggling firm, AMD, last week, and will raise cash that can be used to support the company’s restructuring. 

Nokia has operated in the 48,000 square metre building since its late 90s heyday.

The firm has since seen its sales dramatically drop off, as the likes of Samsung and Apple stole the market. Nokia had been the number one phone maker since 1998, according to analysts at IHS iSuppli, before being knocked from its perch earlier this year.

In attempts to turn its business around, Nokia has put in place major restructuring, committing to cut over 40,000 staff since Stephen Elop took over as CEO in late 2010.

However, despite striking an allegiance with Microsoft to support the Windows Phone operating system, the company has failed to set the crowded smartphone market alight, despite generally favourable reviews of its products such as the recently released Lumia 920.

Time, and indeed cash, is beginning to run out for the firm.  In its most recent financial results the company showed that its cash reserves are quickly dwindling. Net cash during the third quarter was €3.5 billion, a 30 percent drop from the same point last year, when the company had over €5 billion in cash and assets.

Nokia teeters on the edge with abysmal results

Nokia has announced its financial results, and they are pretty grim for the Finnish phone maker.

Operating losses for the first quarter totalled a massive €1.34 billion ($1.76 billion) as the firm took a battering from its competitors.

This compares with an operating profit of €439 million ($576 million) in the same period last year as the “burning platform” CEO Steven Elop took over threatens to sizzle to a crisp.  

Revenues were also down 29 percent to €7.39 billion ($9.7 billion) amid rumours of a staff cull.

Earlier in the week investors were warned to stay away with its rating lowered to one above “junk” by Moody’s Investors services.

“We are navigating through a significant company transition in an industry environment that continues to evolve and shift quickly,” Elop said in a statement upon announcement of the results. 

Elop cited “greater than expected competitive challenges” for seeing the phonemaker dip into a large loss.

Despite the decent reception of the Lumia devices, some reception hiccups aside, it seems that there is still a long way to go if Nokia is to keep fighting.

The firm still claims to have €4 billion of net cash on its balance sheet, but with a few more performances like this it will be back to making rubber boots for the Finnish firm.

Part of the problem has also been the attack on its low end phone business.  Nokia has always performed well in India, for example, but it is in emerging markets like this that Nokia has faced a stiff challenge from cheaper Android handsets.

Elop says the firm will focus efforts in the “low-end of smartphones and feature phone assets to drive improved business results and conserve cash”.  This will mean continuing to renew its Series 40 offerings which have proved popular.

At the high end, the firm is struggling to differentiate itself despite ad campaigns trying to highlight how one shiny touchscreen phone can be different from another. Customers are repeatedly leaning towards Android and iOS rather than Windows.

If it does not manage to solve its conundrum soon, the promise of a powerful Nokia / Windows partnership could soon be at an end.

According to uSwitch mobile expert Ernest Doku, Nokia will have to move fast to avoid disaster.

“This massive net loss proves Nokia’s illustrious past as a top mobile manufacturer counts for nothing on the cutthroat smartphone scene,” he told TechEye.

“The Finnish firm’s great white hopes, the new flagship Lumia 900 and Lumia 710, are slick and well-made and the Windows Phone platform performs on a par with the best Android devices. But whether or not these will improve Nokia’s performance going forward remains to be seen.”

He reckons that putting all of its eggs in one basket is not helping its survival prospects.

“You do get the sense that Nokia has pinned all its hopes on one flagship phone, and if you’re not Apple that’s risky game play. This is something Samsung has recognised, hitting the market with its fleet of Galaxy handsets,” he said.

In the low end segment Nokia is also in trouble.

“Nokia’s Asha phones are popular in developing markets but this is fast becoming just as competitive as the high-end smartphone scene in the developed world,” Doku said.

Nokia's Stephen Elop announces a camera

Ex-Microsoft man, Stephen Elop, has announced some new Nokia devices at MWC – including one camera which also doubles up as a phone.

While this time last year Elop was defending a round of enormous job cuts that swept the Finnish phonemaker, as well as batting away rumours about a Microsoft takeover, today he has been touting a Nokia handset as an amateur photographer’s wet dream.

Presumably named after the acid-house drum machine, the Nokia 808 Pureview boasts a huge 41 megapixel lens, which is a lot by most people’s standards. Many of the current camera phones on the market ship with 8 megapixels. Nokia has always been well known for making great hardware and its cameras are no exception. To prove it, Elop demonstrated the power of the 808 Pureview by taking an extreme close-up of the Beeb’s technology respondant Rory Cellan-Jones’ face, here, which he described as ‘uncomfortable’.  

Despite proclaiming the death of Nokia’s ill-fated Symbian OS, the 808 will not be a Windows Phone device. Microsoft’s favourite handset manufacturer will release the camera with Symbian because the technology had been in development for five years, Elop told the BBC. A puzzling move. We’re calling the decision the Symbian WTF.

If it was Nokia’s aim to confuse the industry, it seems to have succeeded. By making its 808 the focus of its announcements, Nokia has hacked open the corpse of Symbian and put a couple of new AAs into its pacemaker. How, exactly, are we to feel about a new Symbian phone? Device makers will agree that a phone’s success is largely about its ecosystem. That’s one of the reasons Blackberry is struggling so much. It will be confusing for the consumer and, as playing around with Voodoo is widely regarded, bad juju.

Nokia has had a hard time convincing the world that its products can cut it in an Android and iPhone world. But it has recently become the biggest manufacturer of Microsoft smartphones, thanks mainly to the relative success of its Lumia. Speaking of which, Elop also today announced the Lumia 610, a spin-off social media-centric phone which will be available in Nokia’s characteristically bright colours.

Nokia's Stephen Elop thought Android was a bad bet

Microsoft plant the Swingin’ Stephen Elop has been having a chat with a ZDNet blogger where he revealed himself to be either a deluded madman or a talented spinster.

Blogger Matthew Miller had a 20 minute sit-down with the brains behind The Swing Factor. When asked why Nokia plumped for Windows Phone instead of Android, Elop didn’t answer “because I used to work at Microsoft,” but instead said there was no other platform with an ecosystem in place except iOS. Android would probably like a word.

Elop also admitted that Nokia has been handing out ‘thousands’ of Windows Phone devices (read: Nokia) to bring developers on-side. He did not answer the question at hand, which was if Symbian developers were switching to Windows phone. 

Microsoft has a problem with its marketing. Apple gleefully launched an anti-Redmond smear campaign, dressing up Windows PCs as dull, boring failures. Elop admitted that perception is still a problem, telling the ZDNet hack that “there must be a focus on the retail process so that employees at wireless carriers actually offer the devices as viable alternatives”.

The full piece is here and is an excellent demonstration of executive media training in action. 

Kamikaze Elop wages war on smartphone market

From “burning platforms” to establishing “beachheads” former Microsoft man Swingin’ Stephen Elop is not afraid of dramatising hisheroic task of turning Nokia’s fortunes around.

As the Lumia 900 launch attempts to force Nokia back into the US market following a tumultuous year since he jumped ship to the Finnish former rubber boot maker, Elop could be on more of a kamikaze mission considering the difficulty of the job at hand.  A “war of ecosystems” is ensuing, Elop says, and he hopes his assault will be more Dunkirk than le Somme.

Since embarking on a will-they-won’t-they courtship with Microsoft in early 2011, it has become increasingly clear the mammoth task both firms face in becoming relevant in a fast changing smartphone market.

The Lumia series of handsets, the first to feature the partnership between the troubled pair, have generally been well received, and the new US-only 4G handset is no different.  With a 4.3 inch AMOLED screen the hardware seems that it will hold its own against some of the big name phones out there.

But being armed with a paltry 40,000 apps available through Windows shows just how far away both are from squaring up to rivals, with Elop himself admitting in late 2011 that they are “years” behind competitors at this stage.  Apple, for example, has around 500,000 apps available, while Google claims Android Market has in the region of 400,000, a figure that is still growing extremely fast.

Another one of the more debilitating problems facing both firms is that they are deemed out of touch by consumers.  Microsoft has largely been left behind in the move to mobile computing, while Nokia was last seen as desirable around the same time the 3210 and Reebok Classics were de rigeur in classrooms over a decade ago.

At least BlackBerry has some appeal among Molotov cocktail wielding youth in the UK, even if business users have largely given up.

Convincing phone sellers to give Nokia/Windows phones a big push to customers when more enticing brands such as Apple and Samsung are available is going to be no mean feat.  Upon entering most phone shops the words “Android”, “Apple”, “4S” and “S2” are the ones tumbling out of eager sales staff when you say you are looking to get a new smartphone, with neither Nokia or Microsoft getting a look in.

Of course, a large marketing budget from the two money bags firms – it should not be forgotten that Nokia still does rather well with in emerging markets – should go some way to redressing this.

It seems that Microsoft has been fitting into the cut-throat smartphone patent fun and games, getting one up on Android by claiming royalties on handsets of some of its manufacturing partners.

Furthermore, the prospect of Windows 8 popping up on the horizon offers hope of establishing Microsoft’s presence as a powerhouse.  If Windows 8 can deliver the goods then there is a chance the two could become a force to be reckoned with.

With the imminent release of the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 it is possible that in terms of hardware Nokia could be left in the dust once again.

Microsoft’s own side of the partnership is also difficult. With its presence at CES seemingly only to talk up the browser version of Cut The Rope game and a tie-in with Sesame Street, there is still some way off the release of mobile computing attempt Windows 8 and not a lot to put the fear of Ballmer into its enemies.

By the time the Nokia/Windows war machine is fully up and running it could be too late.

Samsung rumoured in Nokia buy

There are hushed words in Finland’s markets that Samsung could be contemplating a buy of that troubled native mobile manufacturer Nokia.

Dow Jones Newswire reporters have sought comment from both Nokia and Samsung who typically have responded by saying they don’t comment on rumours.

While it would be a surprise move, particularly with what is seen as a Microsoft stooge at Nokia’s helm, the Dow Jones tends to report where there are at least several grains of truth to be found.

Nokia also called its huge 7,000 worker lay-off, which TechEye scooped, a rumour and refused to comment. A couple of weeks later it happened. 

We hear there are some executives who have been furious at Elop’s handling of Nokia and the partnership with Redmond. 

The newswire flags Nokia’s statement on an MSFT buy denial, although TechEye has heard an executive has said: “This isn’t a deal between Nokia and Microsoft, this is a Microsoft take over.”

Is it possible that Microsoft will asset strip as much of the company as it can – before at least some of the company is hacked apart in a Finnish carvery and laid out on a platter to Samsung?

Elop breathes life into Symbian OS

Just when it seemed that the Symbian OS was dead and buriedNokia supremo Stephen Elop  said that it will be given a further five years lease of life.

Although Nokia has dedicated its long term future to Windows for its mobile phone software to boost flagging sales, it appears that the firm still holds a soft spot for the much maligned Symbian operating system.

Speaking with Nokia Conversations about Nokia’s new strategy it was revealed that there was not a lot new about it, unless you consider sticking with a product that lit the fire for a certain “burning platform” is a fresh strategy.

“Even as we go through a transition towards our primary smartphone platform, Windows Phone, you will see that continued investment,” Elop said.

“And I know there’s been questions about – so how long does that continue -and we’ve now been very clear about that, that software updates to Symbian devices are expected until at least 2016.”

Elop added that “there’s a long history still to be paved for Symbian in the future”, sending a shudder across the mobile industry.

This will mean that the Nokia will be continuing to offer its support, apps and give software updates to the Symbian system, with a focus likely to be on low end handsets.

So while there was a lot of noise about making large changes to a firm which was seemingly in total disarray when Elop arrived it appears that Nokia will be continuing with one of the main problems until at least 2016, and indeed longer.

However, Ovum analyst Tony Cripps is not surprised by the announcement and believes that the decision to stick with Symbian makes is worthwhile as long as it is making money for the firm.

“There is nothing flawed with the Symbian OS,” Cripps told TechEye, “and it certainly makes sense to continue with the operating system for low end phones as long as Nokia is able to operate with it making a profit.

“With the transition to Windows phones being a gradual one there will be an overlap and so Nokia could certainly not easily cut off its investment in Symbian quickly, so looking to 2016 and beyond makes sense.”

While Nokia was struggling to let go of the past Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer talked yesterday about how the firm is looking forward to working on a range of “next generation” mobile devices as they pair work on the first collaboration to be released later this year.

The partnership between the two firms was largely based upon the Windows Phone software, however Ballmer has now hinted that Microsoft is hoping to have a greater say in the hardware of future handsets.

“The race is on and we continue to push Windows to a variety of form factors,” Ballmer, who today received a vote of confidence from the Microsoft board, said at a conference in  New Delhi.