How Elop did not kill Symbian

Since Nokia released its Q2 2011 results and figures of rapidly declining smartphone market share, there’s been fierce debate on mobile blogs whether Stephen Elop’s ”Burning Platform memo” and the February 11th announcement to move to Windows Phone are to be blamed. There’s an interesting argument against this on the personal blog of Stasys Bielinis (aka Staska), the editor-of-chief of the mobile technology site

Staska basically argues the decline of Symbian smartphone sales had already started during Q4 2010, which is usually the best quarter for every mobile phone vendor, and last year the overall smartphone market was growing some 30%.

All About Symbian had a nice market share graph with history data  of Nokia and competitors which still showed growth for Nokia in Q4 2010. However, this indicates shipments to retailers, operators and other sales channels, not the actual end-user sales. It could be that the warehouses of Nokia clients were full of Symbian smartphones by the end of 2010, so they would not order more devices since the beginning of 2011.

It has also been said the decision to dump Symbian and move to Windows Phone is a such a big strategic move it has been accepted by Nokia’s board of directors, led by Chairman Jorma Ollila. It may have been decided already before Elop joined Nokia. However, the decision to discontinue the MeeGo smartphone product line was made in the beginning of January 2011, according to what Elop said in interview for BusinessWeek.

However, it’s obvious the harsh  way, from the perspective of the Symbian community, Nokia did the February announcement did not help the situation. Many loyal developers and users are now wondering how long there will be support from apps developers, Nokia’s (already slow) device software updates, or new Symbian devices.

Personally I’m pretty sure Nokia N8 will be my last Symbian smartphone. I want to use a device that first gets the nicest new apps and games, such as the Google+ client. And, Nokia’s firmware updates have been too slow. (I can’t blame those Nokia developers anyway. Who’s motivated to do your best when you’re possibly about to get sacked from your job?)

At the moment we know Apple iPhones passed Nokia in smartphone sales during Q2 2011 (abouut 20M versus about 17M). Soon Samsung will report its Q2 1011 results, and then we know if it has overtaken Nokia too. According to the latest news speculations, Samsung may have passed Apple too. Earlier analyst estimates suggested Samsung would have sold about 19,5M smartphones. If Samsung has done a lot better, it could have passed Apple too.

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