Nokia results: demonstrating the Osborne effect?

Here’s Wikipedia:

The Osborne effect is a term referring to the unintended consequence of the announcement of a future product ahead of its availability and its impact upon the sales of the current product.

The reference is to Osborne Computer Corporation, a pioneer of early personal computers, which announced the next generation of its range long before it was available. Sales of the current model immediately dived, and the company went bankrupt.

In February this year, Nokia announced that it was abandoning its Linux-based MeeGo smartphone OS, then in development, and that Symbian would be reserved for low-end phones. Its future smartphone strategy will be based on Windows Phone.

Now here come the results:

The challenges we are facing during our strategic transformation manifested in a greater than expected way in Q2 2011.

says the release, which report an 11% decline in sales quarter-on-quarter and an operating loss:

In the period from January to June 2011, net financial expense was EUR 74 million (EUR 141 million). Loss before tax was EUR 141 million (profit before tax EUR 632 million). Loss was EUR 261 million (profit EUR 279 million), based on a loss of EUR 24 million (profit of EUR 576 million) attributable to equity holders of the parent and a loss of EUR 237 million (loss of EUR 297 million) attributable to non-controlling interests. Earnings per share was EUR -0.01 (basic) and EUR -0.01 (diluted), compared with EUR 0.16 (basic) and EUR 0.16 (diluted) in January-June 2010.

Would these results have been better, if Nokia had not bet its business on Microsoft’s mobile OS back in February? My guess is that they would. Nokia in effect announced the obsolescence of all its current Smartphone range. Smart device sales are down 32% year on year.

Still, even the Osborne effect does not account for the decline in its sales of feature phones, down 20% year on year and 25% quarter on quarter. This is what Nokia says:

The year-on-year and sequential declines in our Mobile Phones volumes were driven by distributors and operators purchasing fewer of our mobile phones during the second quarter 2011 as they reduced their inventories of those devices which were slightly above normal levels at the end of the first quarter 2011. In addition, our lack of Dual SIM phones, a growing part of the market, until late in the second quarter 2011 adversely impacted our Mobile Phones volumes during that quarter. Mobile Phones volumes were also adversely affected by continued pressure from a variety of price aggressive competitors.

Despite the grim figures though, it is too early to pronounce the failure of CEO Stephen Elop’s strategy. After all, no Nokia Windows Phones are yet on sale. The company must be hoping to hang on until it has a decent range of Windows Phones, and for Microsoft to grow its mobile market share dramatically above what it is currently.

Should Nokia have chosen Android rather than Windows Phone? Android’s extraordinary growth suggests that it should; yet there are signs of significant copyright and patent trouble for Android, and by attaching to Android Nokia would have been a me-too behind more established vendors such as Samsung, HTC, and nearly everyone else.

Should Nokia have persevered with MeeGo and Symbian? Although early MeeGo devices are winning praise, I doubt that the OS would have challenged Android and iOS; but that is open to speculation.

The problem for Nokia is that if it was going to make a radical platform shift, some degree of Osborne effect was inevitable. Adopting Windows Phone could not have been done in secret.

That said, perhaps the company could have been smarter. Rather than laying all its cards on the table, could it have announced a Windows Phone strategy alongside MeeGo and Symbian, adopting a more gradual approach to avoid shocking the market?

It is also worth noting that Nokia’s problems started long before the arrival of the new CEO. What we are seeing now is the playing out of old mistakes, not just the impact of what may be new ones.

However you spin it though, the new Nokia is a lesser thing than the Nokia of old, which commanded rather than followed the mobile market.

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One thought on “Nokia results: demonstrating the Osborne effect?

  1. Dan

    Conspiracy Theory ahead…..

    Could this be a strategic move for Microsoft?
    Nokia is capable of creating the hardware it needs for Microsoft branded handsets.

    Could it be that Microsoft is engineering Nokia’s failure in order to drive the stock valuation low enough for a bargain bin take over?

    Hmmmm…

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