How Apple's iPhone rapidly destroyed Nokia's world leading Symbian platform

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014

In 2008, a journalist in Finland wrote a letter to Nokia complaining that its smartphones were difficult to use, prompting a confidential response acknowledging desperate efforts to catch up with Apple's new iPhone. One year later Nokia announced MeeGo, and the following year it made plans to shift to Windows Phone. The company is now being sold off for scrap.



 







In August 2008, Helsingin Sanomat journalist Lauri Malkavaara wrote the company saying that while Nokia had established itself as a maker of easy to use phones, its latest models were confusing and frustrating.



Malkavaara described the Symbian-based Nokia E51 as being the third cellular phone he had ever owned. But unlike earlier cellphones from Nokia that "were very easy to use" and "no manuals were needed," the latest model lacked either quality.

 

Apple's iPhone quickly killed Nokia’s Symbian





"I have wondered about it for a week now," Malkavaara wrote of the E51's Symbian interface. "At first I did not even know how to call with it without the manual, and I still do not understand very much of it." He then issued Nokia a grave warning about its ability to compete with Apple's new products.



"The problem is," he stated, "that half a year ago a friend of mine at work showed me a device manufactured by Apple called the iPod Touch. I fell in love instantly. I wanted an iPod, and with that device I could also have convenient access to the internet and much more.



"I ordered my own iPod touch, turned it on, and knew immediately how to use it. I have used the device now on a daily basis for over six months, and I have not even thought about any manuals. The logic of the device opens up right away. It is no wonder that it is a huge success all over the world."

 


iPod touch





He then described the inscrutable difficulty of navigating menus on Nokia's Symbian phones to try to figure out how to accomplish the most basic of tasks, from setting a ringtone to sending a text message.



Malkavaara concluded, "By putting a telephone like the E51 onto the market, Nokia has squandered its most important legacies: to produce telephones in such a way that they are easy to use. This will cause problems for Nokia."



In response, he stated that Nokia promptly followed up the next day, noting that "Nokia bosses started calling me, wanting to explain Nokia's strategy."



He explained that he wasn't interested in reporting on on Nokia's strategy, but had simply intended the feedback as something for the company to consider internally. One "unyielding" executive, he wrote, pushed to have a conversation about the subject, resulting in plans to meet and discuss the matter.



After growing agitated with the executive's efforts to explain that different people "need different kinds of telephones," Malkavaara replied, “the kind of person who wants to use a bad telephone does not exist."

 

Nokia knew Symbian was not competitive





In confidence the executive then relented and explained that the company was fully aware of the problem, apologizing that that Nokia had produced a bad telephone experience. He then described a top secret project within Nokia to develop a new operating system intended to support new kinds of phones that would be easy to use.



Nokia had been closely following Apple's 2007 launch of the iPhone, and had expedited "a large number of iPhones to Nokia's head office in Espoo" by courier at its release. The executive described taking one home and presenting it to his four year old daughter, who "learned to use it immediately."



The executive noted he "knew Nokia was in trouble" when the young girl asked him that evening, "can I take that magic telephone and put it under my pillow tonight?"

 

iPhone destroys BlackBerry, Android can't match value





One month later, in September 2008, Canalys published data showing that Symbian's growth had stalled at the launch of Apple's second generation iPhone 3G, before Android had even shipped on a production phone.

 







Android wouldn't become popular for another year, during which the parallel collapse of Blackberry at Verizon Wireless at the hands of Apple's iPhone prompted Verizon to abandon the Blackberry and instead back Android as an iPhone alternative through 2010.

 







By the end of 2010, weak sales of Android had also demonstrated that platform to be incapable of driving iPhone-like demand, prompting Verizon to partner with Apple on the iPad, followed by iPhone 4 early in 2011. Apple’s iPhone rapidly became Verizon’s top seller.

 

Nokia's MeeGo goes nowhere, followed by Windows Phone





Nokia's top secret new OS was MeeGo, a Linux project it took public in August 2009, a year after disclosing the strategy to Malkavaara. Nokia announced the new MeeGo as its plan for replacing Symbian.



The company subsequently struggled to finish MeeGo by the summer of 2010, when the OS initially shipped on Nokia's N900 netbook. It took more than another full year for Nokia to get MeeGo running on a smartphone, the N9, released in September 2011.



By that time, an increasingly desperate Nokia had partnered with Microsoft. Just five months after bringing on Stephen Elop as its chief executive in September 2010, the former Microsoft executive announced a new direction for the company based on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform, thanks to billions Microsoft paid Nokia to adopt the struggling platform.



Elop effectively terminated future development of Nokia's own MeeGo project to focus on Windows Phone in an effort to stand out from other vendors' Android offerings.



However, after two and a half years of failing to gain traction with Windows Phone and watching its share of the market plummet from 23 percent to 15 percent, Nokia agreed to be acquired by Microsoft for $7.2 billion.

 



Explore more NOK Data at Wikinvest




Seven years earlier at the debut of Apple's iPhone, Nokia's market cap valued the company in excess of $116 billion, roughly equal to Apple itself. In 2000, before smartphones had gained any traction, Nokia had a peak valuation of $222 billion. Today, Apple's market capitalization is nearly $400 billion.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 62
    How the mighty have fallen. And that isn't just limited to Nokia.

    It's not just that Apple came to market with a device way better than anything out there, they came out with a device that was so refined in its software it's actually weird that no other company has even tried to get this refinement into their software.

    The HW I guess anyone can make, and I don't want to limit this to the manufacturers. But for crying out load, if you're going to copy the software as well, why oh why don't these companies do a better job?
  • Reply 2 of 62
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,926member
    philboogie wrote: »
    How the mighty have fallen. And that isn't just limited to Nokia.

    It's not just that Apple came to market with a device way better than anything out there, they came out with a device that was so refined in its software it's actually weird that no other company has even tried to get this refinement into their software.

    The HW I guess anyone can make, and I don't want to limit this to the manufacturers. But for crying out load, if you're going to copy the software as well, why oh why don't these companies do a better job?

    I understand not being the leader, but failure to follow the obvious leader is unforgivable and it's going to lead to them becoming a shell of their former self.
  • Reply 3 of 62
    "The kind of person who wants to use a bad telephone does not exist."

    Well that pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?
  • Reply 4 of 62
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    To say that the iPhone destroyed Symbian would be an incredible over-simplification of what happened. The iPhone certainly destroyed Symbian in the UK and Australia but the picture in other countries is mixed. Symbian never had double-digit marketshare in the US for example. Other Symbian strongholds such as India and China haven't truly been conquered by Apple yet. If you look at where Symbian was dominant in terms of geography and price points, there's far more overlap with Android than iPhone. Ultimately, Nokia and Elop destroyed Symbian, ditched its well-reviewed successor and never found a viable alternative.

     

    You say that Nokia had a "secret plan" to replace Symbian with MeeGo but it really wasn't all that secret. Nokia released its first internet tablet based on Maemo (the previous name for MeeGo) in 2005. It was already clear to smart commentators at that stage that ultimately Maemo/MeeGo would replace Symbian - an operating designed for low-powered hardware - as hardware advanced.

  • Reply 5 of 62
    Nice. They deleted my comment.

    You censor me but not the trolls?
  • Reply 6 of 62
    alfiejralfiejr Posts: 1,524member
    it's really not complicated at all. Symbian, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile were the three first generation smartphone OS's. when they were new they were a breakthrough and prospered (wiping out the earlier PDA's) but they were primitive - OS's too intrinsically limited to advance significantly.

    so when Apple's second generation new iOS smartphone appeared, along with its following Android imitator, those three were quickly blown away.

    they all attempted to develop second generation smartphone OS's too. we will never know if MeeGo would have succeeded for Nokia (i doubt it). BB failed with QNX. only Windows Phone has a modest niche market (thanks entirely to Nokia).

    Android is in the process of forking and metastasizing into dozens of variations around the world that will have little or nothing to do with Google (altho the buffoon Schmidt will still hype their "activations.").

    and then Apple brought its second generation smartphone OS to tablets, followed again by the Android imitator. but MS didn't have sense enough to do the same with the Windows Phone OS, instead birthing the stillborn RT.

    iOS is so powerful - fundamentally a focused version of OS X - that it can continue to evolve technically indefinitely. maybe Android can too - i don't know.

    will there be a third generation? yes, it will be the non-traditional-smartphone smartphones - the wearables, smart cars, smart houses, smart whatever. but the slow adoption - actual real use - of all the new "smart TV's" demonstrates the difficulty of this.

    ultimately their success will depend on the ecosystems that tie them together with the smartphone/tablet you already have. while techies may love complicated set ups with many possibilities, all the rest of us consumers want stuff that Just Works, and as simply as possible.
  • Reply 7 of 62
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,258member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post



    How the mighty have fallen. And that isn't just limited to Nokia.



    It's not just that Apple came to market with a device way better than anything out there, they came out with a device that was so refined in its software it's actually weird that no other company has even tried to get this refinement into their software.



    The HW I guess anyone can make, and I don't want to limit this to the manufacturers. But for crying out load, if you're going to copy the software as well, why oh why don't these companies do a better job?

     

    I'm not sure if you're trying to say that other companies should have been able to conceive of a phone like the iPhone before Apple accomplished it or whether they should have better copied Apple after the iPhone was released.    In retrospect, it seems like we all should have been able to conceive the idea of the iPhone, but no one really did.   Back when I had an early Nokia in the late 90s, I though it far superior to the alternatives, even though all it did was make calls and have a phone directory.   When I went Crackberry, I thought the keyboard was good, but I did realize that the display was horrible and the "web browser" was totally useless.  But I still didn't realize that an ideal phone would have a 3 or 4" screen and be a phone, quality web browser, house applications, etc.

     

    As far as the other manufacturers go today, while each of the competitors have their disadvantages and UI failures in their implementations, I think that for the average user, they perceive their Android or Windows phones to be every bit as good as the Apple phone and iOS and there are certain design elements on those phones that better Apple in some respects.   While I haven't studied those phones in detail, when I'm on a train and looking over someone's shoulder who is using one of those devices, I often say to myself, "hey..that looks surprisingly good."    There was a time when Apple was the only company who really understood typography and great GUI, but I think the competition has also now finally learned how to do quality work as well.

     

    Frankly, I feel that the latest iOS should have taken a much bigger leap to jump over the competition.   It's a fine OS and my phone seems to be running much faster since I installed it, but I don't think there's anything there that kills the competition.   What's missing is something that is so great, people who don't already have an Apple iPhone say, "I can't live without that phone".   Instead, people are seeking less expensive alternatives (especially in places where phones aren't subsidized).

  • Reply 8 of 62
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,148moderator
    Nice. They deleted my comment.

    You censor me but not the trolls?

    This is your only post in the thread, there aren't any deleted ones.
  • Reply 9 of 62
    Frankly I wanted an iPhone like device way back when I was using a palm os Samsung SPH-i300. It was a good little folding phone, but I wondered way back then why folks can't create something more user friendly, more like a real pocket computer. I used to carry a swiss army knife around as it could do anything. My new swiss army knife is the iPhone!
  • Reply 10 of 62
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

    This is your only post in the thread, there aren't any deleted ones.

     

    Is this one of the recent articles that got posted multiple times? Were the threads merged? I can’t remember… 

  • Reply 11 of 62
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,387member
    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">This is your only post in the thread, there aren't any deleted ones.</span>

    Is this one of the recent articles that got posted multiple times? Were the threads merged? I can’t remember… 

    This is the thread that had the number 160032 when the article was posted this afternoon (my time). I kept on posting but nothing would happen. I came back later only to find out it had now a new number, 160050, and even though the article was something like 3 hours old no one had posted in the thread. Weird.
  • Reply 12 of 62
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,926member
    Marvin wrote: »
    This is your only post in the thread, there aren't any deleted ones.

    I also posted a comment before and it didn't show.
  • Reply 13 of 62
    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

    This is the thread that had the number 160032 when the article was posted this afternoon (my time). I kept on posting but nothing would happen. I came back later only to find out it had now a new number, 160050, and even though the article was something like 3 hours old no one had posted in the thread. Weird.

     

    Aha, that’d be it, then. There’s a bug right now where articles are getting published to multiple threads. I’ve reported those with replies in them to have them merged, and I bet that’s just what happened.

     

    Huddler fixed this before; not sure why it would happen again.

  • Reply 14 of 62
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,387member
    zoetmb wrote: »
    philboogie wrote: »
    How the mighty have fallen. And that isn't just limited to Nokia.


    It's not just that Apple came to market with a device way better than anything out there, they came out with a device that was so refined in its software it's actually weird that no other company has even tried to get this refinement into their software.


    The HW I guess anyone can make, and I don't want to limit this to the manufacturers. But for crying out load, if you're going to copy the software as well, why oh why don't these companies do a better job?

    I'm not sure if you're trying to say that other companies should have been able to conceive of a phone like the iPhone before Apple accomplished it or whether they should have better copied Apple after the iPhone was released.

    Actually I was expecting for companies to copy Apple's attention to detail. They cannot ignore how profitable they've become, and I can only imagine they want this as well. Why they don't thoroughly look at their products, the software and every little detail to get that same level of attention I do not understand. It looks like thy all take shortcuts, hoping they'll be profitable 'sooner or later'. The familiar 'throw everything at the wall, see what sticks' approach.
    In retrospect, it seems like we all should have been able to conceive the idea of the iPhone, but no one really did.

    Yeah, I can relate to that. It all seems so logical, but only after they delivered. They execute, there's no denying.
    , when I'm on a train and looking over someone's shoulder who is using one of those devices, I often say to myself, "hey..that looks surprisingly good."

    That about says it for me: we are surprised by this fact, because our expectations have been lowered because of poor design we see every day. I often tell somebody while walking or driving around: "hey, they should've designed it this or that way" and more often than not I get the response that this would be a better way because blah die blah...
    There was a time when Apple was the only company who really understood typography and great GUI, but I think the competition has also now finally learned how to do quality work as well.

    Here's to Apple; the leader of the pack
  • Reply 15 of 62
    Marvin wrote: »
    This is your only post in the thread, there aren't any deleted ones.

    I was online at around 3am, when I saw this thread with "-1 comments", so posted a comment, something innocuous like "interesting!" And a complement about having insight into Nokia's internal reaction to iPhone. It was the first comment in the thread. PhilBoogie had not posted anything yet. I am certain I submitted a post and saw it appear when the page refreshed. There were no other comments in the thread, and no errors. Maybe it's a coding bug? I know I am not imagining this.

    EDIT: I'm now seeing the others posts about this issue. Looks like it's some kind of code bug. Apologies.
  • Reply 16 of 62
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,387member
    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">This is the thread that had the number 160032 when the article was posted this afternoon (my time). I kept on posting but nothing would happen. I came back later only to find out it had now a new number, 160050, and even though the article was something like 3 hours old no one had posted in the thread. Weird.</span>

    Aha, that’d be it, then. There’s a bug right now where articles are getting published to multiple threads. I’ve reported those with replies in them to have them merged, and I bet that’s just what happened.

    Huddler fixed this before; not sure why it would happen again.

    Well, that's good news then. They know what's going on, and have a fix for it. Maybe we get lucky and they can resolve the issue entirely. Here's to hoping.

    edit: also good news for Suddenly Newton
  • Reply 17 of 62
    Nokia was my 2nd cellular phone, back in 1985 or so, after owning a 'clunker' brick sized phone. It was light, easily pocketable, worked perfect and was very popular.It was my favourite phone till the iphones came out
    .
    I've owned iphones since they first came out, and I do expect Apple to tumble from the top eventually. Once your at the top of the market, there is no where to go but down.

    Notwithstanding the 'feelings' of our capitalist companies, we (the consumers) continue to benefit from the evolvement of these great products; and quite frankly, I could care less which companies survive or die, as long as products continue to improve and get cheaper.

    Companies that listen to their customers, and don't try to rule the market through their arrogance and dominance (i.e. RIM and Microsoft), will generally keep a soft spot in the hearts of their customers, and live through ups and downs (Apple)
  • Reply 18 of 62
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member

    Symbian had it all...

     

    ..."true" multitasking

     

    ...memory cards

     

    ...openness and customisation

     

    ...the right screen size, the iPhone's is too big to use one handed

     

    ...thousands of apps and millions of songs you could get for free

     

    ...MMS and more megapixels

     

    ...hardware keys

     

    ...voice navigation

     

    ...majority market share

     

    There was no way they were going to fail.

     

    It's ironic how all the Nokia fans switched their allegiance to Google, Samsung and others yet still make the same arguments.

  • Reply 19 of 62
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,148moderator
    dasanman69 wrote: »
    Marvin wrote: »
    This is your only post in the thread, there aren't any deleted ones.

    I also posted a comment before and it didn't show.

    I'm not sure what happened to that one but it's probably not worth bothering about. ;)

    PhilBoogie's and Suddenly Newton's posts are still there though, they got merged into the following thread:

    http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/160032/how-apples-iphone-rapidly-destroyed-nokias-world-leading-symbian-platform

    I can't merge them in here because they were made before the thread started so would appear at the top.
  • Reply 20 of 62

    I find it interesting that there is no Nokia Army overrunning this thread, four hours in. 

     

    Not to derail the discussion, but this lends weight to the notion that Samsung apologists are paid to selectively "white knight" here.  I've considered that far-fetched, up to now.

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