In December 2009 a New York times opinion editorial asked if Nokia could recapture its glory days (my own assessment is here). That describes the time, not really that long ago, when the company’s offerings dominated customer desire. As we surely all recognize by now, Nokia appears to have hit its general market penetration peak in 2008. Much of its sales decline since then can certainly be attributed to the global economic decline, but that can’t explain why Apple, Google and Research in Motion have been able to grow and even create share in the same period. I won’t get too deep into the successes of the latter but instead will focus on challenges and recent moves by Nokia.
The Invisible Company
I’m a strong believer that product success largely depends on strong corporate presence. In that respect, I don’t see it as coincidental that Nokia’s retreating moves parallel lack of success in the US cell phone market. Closing the US Alliance factory, closing Experience Centers, minimizing and closing Flagship installations, outsourcing logistics, effectively eliminating advertising and promotion… these have helped create a mindshare vacuum that competitors are only happy to fill. I’m just afraid the great Nokia Theaters might be next.
Combine that reduction in presence with Nokia’s relatively new high emphasis on software and services over hardware, and one can certainly forgive US customers for thinking Nokia is no longer a serious player in the devices space. iPhone models and Android-fueled phones are receiving the big buzz; Nokia’s Maemo offering (the N900) not so much. And those Nokia devices could be the easy conveyances for getting their services into the hands of customers.
But two recent advents appear to be setting the stage for changing this scenario.
Wither go MeeGo?
I already covered what I think MeeGo means for both Nokia and partner Intel so no need to rehash such a recent article. But the bottom line is that Nokia’s merging its Linux-based Maemo operating system with Intel’s Moblin into MeeGo looks more like a solid strategic move than a mere act of desperation… so far anyway. It’s a good idea that is causing some short-term disruption but long term offers a solid, scalable alternative to Symbian… but more importantly, to competition like Android.
Location, location, location
Now we get close to the meat of the matter.
My last role with Nokia was mostly virtual (global), which was fairly common and even desireable for a company so strong on mobility. But for a variety of reasons, there was a withdrawal from this sort of position in 2008 (which resulted in my own position being unfortunately eliminated). This was startling for me, seeing as how my global role was itself created as a result of the elimination of timezone divisions from Nokia’s business structure.
Now the company’s hiring strategies appear to be highly-focused on regions again. One reason is revealed in recent comments from Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo:
“There is no doubt the center of mobile innovation has shifted from Europe to Silicon Valley. We are working to tap into this innovation.”
That’s a profound statement given the pullback during 2009 of key reasearch, development and design activities to Finland and growth markets for low-cost phones. Nokia is now readily acknowledging that not only is the smartphone market critical to high profit margins, the condensed creative resources of Northern California in this regard cannot be quickly dismissed.
Jobs… no, not Steve
Creativity congregating on a regional basis is a largely self-fulfilling social phenomenon, and while worthy of analysis is a moot point here. Simply recognizing the reality of creativity centers like Silicon Valley is to a company’s benefit. The area is such a hotbed of inventive activity and provides such a rich infrastructure for future-proofing that it can’t be ignored by a company like Nokia.
To that end, here’s a listing of some interesting new San Franciso area jobs showing up on Nokia’s career board:
Principal Network Engineer / Network Architect
US-Mountain View, US-Alpharetta
Internet Transit and Connectivity Specialist
Regional Technology Marketing Manager
Product Manager – Mobile Productivity Applications
Click here for many more, including positions in other US locations.
While I sure saw the value in “work anywhere” positions, I can also understand why a company like Nokia would make certain it had proper presence in specific, critical design centers around the world. California’s Silicon Valley has a lengthy history of entrepreneurial development and it’s encouraging to see Nokia swallow some corporate pride and expand its presence there. Here’s hoping the seeding bears fruit!