It’s Nail-Biting Time for Nokia Workers (and for Google Too?)

Published on February 9, 2011
by Ina Fried

Things have been a bit uncertain for Nokia employees for some time, but this week is especially anxious for them as CEO Stephen Elop has promised big changes, but only hinted at what the new direction will be.

In a sharply written memo to staff on Tuesday, Elop made the case that the current path is not a sustainable one.

That followed comments on last month’s earnings call that indicated that he was ready for a shift.

Speculation has centered on a move to either Android or Windows Phone 7. Elop hasn’t tipped his hand, but has indicated that a key part of any good smartphone strategy is being part of a strong ecosystem.

Elop’s memo, however, didn’t appear to bode well for MeeGo, a version of mobile linux that has been supported by Nokia and Intel.

“We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough,” Elop said. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.”

And a tweet from Google’s Vic Gundotra indicated that Nokia probably is not going the Android route.

“Two turkeys do not make an Eagle,” he said in a tweet with a hashtag for Feb. 11–the date of Nokia’s stategy announcement.

With negative comments from Elop about MeeGo and from Google about Nokia, it appears that Windows Phone 7 may be the most likely choice for Nokia going forward. And, of course, there’s the fact that Elop hails from Microsoft, where he lead the company’s Office unit before assuming the Nokia helm last September.

Elop has also drawn a distinction between the high end of the smartphone market and a distinct low-end market for China and elsewhere, suggesting Nokia won’t be going with a one-size-fits-all approach.

All is slated to be revealed on Friday, as Elop addresses investors in London.

Workers in both the U.S. and Finland tell Mobilized they are bracing for some big shifts and executive departures, but say that they still don’t know exactly which parts are on the chopping block.

But while uncertainty is high, some are guardedly optimistic that Elop’s changes will bring the radical change the company badly needs to regain lost ground in the smartphone arena.

“The company needs to be agile–it needs to do fewer things better, not many things poorly,” one company source told Mobilized.

In the meantime, Friday can’t come soon enough for both anxious investors and workers. Mobilized is here in London and will have live coverage of Friday’s events and the continued drama leading up to the meeting.

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