Nokia’s decision not to sell its N9 MeeGo phone in the US is a shame, but certainly not a surprise.
Ever since the phone’s low-key announcement in June, the Finnish phone-maker has tried to distance itself from the handset, apparently because it doesn’t fit in with the company’s future smartphone strategy.
This latest move, amid refusals to confirm that the UK will get the device on the same day as its launch elsewhere in Europe on September 23rd, suggests this is a device Nokia’s only releasing because it has to.
Underlying that, there’s the sense that the N9 could well have been the phone that could have saved Nokia’s smartphone business. CEO Stephen Elop’s decision to go all-in with Windows Phone means it’s hardly surprising that the N9 has been relegated to ugly duckling status.
That’s despite the fact it’s received largely warm previews, with its OS talked up as a brilliant shift away from the days of the ugly Symbian OS, which itself is being kept alive, in Europe and Asia at least.
By not selling the N9 in America, and confirming that Symbian will be fully killed off in the States, Nokia is showing that it considers the US to be its primary smartphone target. That’s no surprise, seeing as it’s the territory it’s failed in so spectacularly over the past few years.
It appears that Stephen Elop simply doesn’t want the N9 to do well. It’s the flagship phone of the old regime, the handset that his predecessor Olli Pekka Kallasvuo, aka OPK, said would bring Nokia back from the brink.
Elop can’t risk OPK being right. Because if the N9 did sell well and then Nokia cancelled support for it (which it surely will as it stops MeeGo development), he’d face a consumer backlash from users.
Better by far to sideline it and keep the focus strictly on Windows Phone - the OS that Elop chose to reinvigorate Nokia. That approach is undoubtedly dangerous, because it smacks of all Nokia’s eggs being put in one basket.
There’s little argument for keeping Symbian alive and kicking, despite Elop’s bizarre attempts to do so in Europe with a string of underwhelming new releases.
But the N9 is actually shaping up to be a great handset. Kicking it into the long grass, just like Nokia did with the Maemo-N900, only makes us think that Elop is desperate for Windows Phone to succeed to the detriment of all other good products emerging from Espoo.
Perhaps he’s right. He certainly can’t be seen by Nokia shareholders to be backing down with his Microsoft project now.
But you can be sure that if Nokia Windows Phones don’t materialise soon, and sell like the proverbial, myriad questions will be asked as to why an excellent phone, in the shape of the N9, was not given the chance it so clearly deserves.