Ina Fried

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Nokia Sells a Million Windows Phones, but Symbian Dropping Faster Than Expected

The key financial question for Nokia is whether it can ramp up its Windows Phone business faster than its existing Symbian sales tail off.

The company’s results on Thursday showed that Nokia had better hurry.

Although it managed to ship one million of its Windows Phones last year, the company notes that its Symbian business is declining faster than it had predicted.

“Specifically, changing market conditions are putting increased pressure on Symbian,” CEO Stephen Elop noted in comments accompanying Nokia’s earnings release. “In certain markets, there has been an acceleration of the anticipated trend towards lower-priced smartphones with specifications that are different from Symbian’s traditional strengths.”

In other words, expect low-cost Android to be a strong competitor across the globe. Elop had held out hope that cheap Android phones would prove to be underpowered and less popular.

“Just because there is a version of an operating system at a price point doesn’t mean that it is a great experience,” he said in an interview last year.

But that experience appears to be plenty good enough for a bunch of the customers that Nokia had hoped would continue to buy Symbian devices.

When it announced its plans to move to Windows Phone a year ago, Nokia had said it expected nonetheless to sell a further 150 million devices.

“As a result of the changing market conditions, combined with our increased focus on Lumia, we now believe that we will sell fewer Symbian devices than we previously anticipated,” Elop said.

The company didn’t provide a new estimate, but did say that it took a charge last quarter for excess inventory and purchase commitments that it had made. It also declined to make an overall financial forecast for 2012, in part because of the uncertainty over future Symbian sales.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work