In an “ask me anything” session today, former Nokia chief and current Microsoft head of devices and services Stephen Elop answered questions on a variety of topics. One of those was Nokia’s decision to make devices for the Windows Phone platform instead of Android. When prompted if he thought it was the right decision, his answer was as reasonable as it was surprising.
When asked “do you think that Nokia with Android is a good idea?”, Elop elaborated a bit more than anticipated. In his response, it was clear the choice was measured, and aimed at survival:
When we made the decision to focus on Windows Phone back in 2011, we were very concerned that a decision to pursue Android would put us on a collision course with Samsung, who already had established a head of steam around Android. That was the right decision, as we have seen virtually all other OEMs from those days pushed to the side. Today, we are using AOSP to attack a specific market opportunity, but we are being thoughtful to do it in a way that accrues benefit to Microsoft and to Lumia.
Already caught with their guard down, Nokia chose to forge a path nobody else was considering in Windows Phone dominance. While that likely meant (and eventually did) lead to a dimishined market share, it didn’t kill them off. Well, didn’t kill them off as quickly as it could have, at least.
Elop actually makes a salient point, and shows that Nokia knew what they were up against in Samsung. At the time Nokia was facing a decision to build devices for a platform other than their defunct Symbian, HTC and Motorola were trending downward while the deep-pocketed Samsung was on the rise. Faced with a competitive Android market and Windows platform that needed a true partner, the choice for Nokia was clear.
Though they eventually folded into Microsoft, they’ve managed to keep themselves alive as a service-oriented company. That likely wouldn’t have been the case had they tried to join the Android mix all those years ago. Had they jumped into the deep water when everyone was goading them, it’s plausible the company would have simply folded entirely and left the world with nothing.