Where Nokia went wrong

10x0713ob345symbismall[1] How to change your whole product development and marketing strategy? Not the way Nokia did.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that going with a Microsoft ecosystem was a good thing to do. Nokia’s own software was running behind, it desperately needed a fresh, more universal platform. The Android market is overcrowded already, and presents problems with hardware, so Windows Phone was a good alternative with lots of future potential.

So I’m not ranting against phasing out Symbian. I’m ranting against the clumsy way they did it, because that’s what made thousands of customers angry. As part of my PhD work, these days I have to re-read my old books on market-driven management. And they reminded me of an old truth: it’s much cheaper to retain your current customers than to attract new ones.

Nokia failed to do that. A sudden strategy change doesn’t mean you have to abandon your clients; you could invest in guiding them smoothly and helping them join the new ecosystem that you’re adopting.

They can learn from their new friends at Microsoft: Windows XP was released in 2001, and I’m still getting updates for my OS. Sure, the support cycle ends in a few weeks, but it’s been more than a decade and I can say Microsoft never abandoned me as a customer. Plus, I can upgrade to a newer version of Windows, quite cheaply, and on top of that, they’re even offering discounts on new hardware.

Nokia did the opposite thing: they promised they would keep their flagship smartphone OS, Symbian^3, up to date with regular new releases to keep up with new technology. Only a couple of months after this promise, they dropped all work on OS updates. Since then, I’ve been struggling with expired betas, certificate errors, lack of support for new WiFi protocols, and, justifiably, a total lack of interest in Symbian among app developers. All this on a Nokia N8 phone with relatively good hardware that’s technically still up to date.

Needless to say, my next phone will not be a Nokia.

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