Nokia’s latest financial results were never going to make for pretty reading. But the news that the Espoo-based giant's phone sales slumped by 20 per cent compared to the same period last year, and by 23 per cent against Q1 shows that things are even worse than mobile watchers feared.
Add in the news that profits nosedived by 44 per cent quarter-on-quarter and it’s surely now evident that Nokia needs a miracle if it’s ever going to be able to compete in the ever-growing smartphone space.
It’s become increasingly clear that Stephen Elop’s “burning platform” rallying call at the start of the year was not the beginning of a brave new era at Nokia. Far from it.
Since then, the company has lumbered on with a series of new Symbian phones and the Symbian Anna software update, all while maintaining that the OS would be taking a back seat to Microsoft’s Windows Phone in the not-too-distant future.
The release of the Nokia N9 so long seen as the company’s great white hope, was embarrassingly muted. A potentially great phone was shown off in the full knowledge that its MeeGo OS was already an afterthought.
It’s also set to be gazumped by Windows Phone. Yet it’s what Stephen Elop said in the wake of the results that should really set alarm bells ringing. He said he was “increasingly confident” that Nokia would release a Windows Phone this year.
However, Elop added that even if the phone did land this year, it wouldn’t be until 2012 that we’d see large volumes on sale. So that suggests that despite talk of October’s Nokia World event seeing the debut of the so-called Sea Ray a phone leaked extensively in recent weeks, most users won’t be able to snag one until next year.
This is a huge own goal by Nokia, but one in keeping with a company that has singly failed in recent years to meet planned release dates. The N8’s continually delayed release (and its appalling usability issues) meant the phone was never able to come close to matching the iPhone 4 or the series of top-end Android handsets which flooded the market in 2010. A year on and Nokia is going to make the same mistake with its first Windows Phone handset.
Even if the phone is announced this side of Christmas, not releasing it until next year will see Nokia lose out massively to the new iPhone, the potential Google Nexus 3 and undoubtedly a whole string of new phones from HTC.
Nokia’s approach since it announced its hook-up with Microsoft has been hideously muddled. What it should have done was admit that Symbian and MeeGo were finished, not make a half-baked attempt to keep things ticking over.
Imagine if Espoo and the Big M had actually wheeled out a handset ready for release almost right away. It could have stolen all the headlines emanating from Mobile World Congress and at least had a chance of giving Android and iOS a hard time in the spring.
As it is, Nokia’s atrocious results prove the writing is on the wall. Changing its smartphone OS strategy has yielded no results, just another string of unfulfilled promises.
That won’t impress investors and it won’t impress consumers either. Why wait for a Nokia Windows Phone when you can get something that’s better supported and readily available now?
It’ll be remarkable if Nokia ever manages to claw itself back to the top table, even if its first Microsoft-backed phone is a stunner.