THE END

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Today (April 24 2014) was the last day of Nokia as we knew it. The staff of Nokia’s Silicon Valley office went to the restaurant down the street and had one last celebration together. We had fun and said our goodbyes.

On April 25, that Nokia ceases to exist, and in its place are two companies that officially have nothing to do with each other: Microsoft Mobile Oy (where the heart of the company will go) and Nokia Oyj (where I will be).

Tomorrow I will still be an employee of Nokia. I will go to my office in Sunnyvale. It will be the same building it was yesterday. It will still say NOKIA on its facade basking in the California sun. But half of the people I’ve worked with will be gone. Up through today we shared everything. Tomorrow we will share nothing but our memories.

I am not writing another piece to lay blame for who is responsible for the decline and fall of this iconic company. I am writing to reflect on what Nokia has meant for the world, and for me.

Of course, the sheer success that Nokia had in its mission of “connecting people” makes it impossible for me or any one person to say what Nokia meant for the world. The story of Nokia is the story of over a billion human beings whose lives were touched, and even transformed, by being connected to anyone, anywhere, for the very first time. It is the story of a small Nordic country transformed into a global technology powerhouse, of a plucky company that achieved what the smartest management consultants had warned them was impossible, and of thousands of individual triumphs of dedicated employees who made breakthrough after dazzling breakthrough in engineering, logistics, design and marketing, only to outdo themselves soon thereafter.

For me, working for Nokia was a wondrous, life-changing experience. Nokia saw potential in me and took me in as a refugee from HP’s webOS debacle. They empowered me to try crazy new ideas that turned into wild successes, and gave me the freedom to help others with theirs. Nokia took me to a dozen countries across four continents, and allowed me to rise from a Developer Community Manager to a Product Marketing Manager to a Product Manager in Nokia CTO’s most ambitious and exciting project. Nokia gave me as much as they could, and in turn I gave them everything I had.

What I had the opportunity to accomplish in less than 3 years at Nokia was incredible. But my story is a short one, and one among thousands of Nokians. I hope others share their stories. They should be told. Not many people can say they worked for a company that had such a great impact on so many people. Thanks to Nokia, I am privileged to be among the few. The “happy few”…

But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here

Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii

 

The Nokia that we knew ends today, but its impact on the industry and the world will last for years to come.

And the phones it made will last forever.

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Literally. Forever.

Nokia, you gave me my first gray hairs, sleepless nights, and countless moments of frustration and anguish as I watched you die and couldn’t save you—and the best, most exciting, most illuminating years of my life as I tried. Damn you. And thank you.

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Moving on to The Next Billion

I have made the decision to move to Nokia, effective December 19.

While I fully support Meg’s announcement to make webOS an open source project, and am tremendously excited for the future of webOS, I was given an opportunity at Nokia that I couldn’t turn down where I think I can have a significant impact.

Nokia sells more phones to more people than any company on Earth, and their corporate mission of connecting the Next Billion resonates with me personally. When I spent 2 years working in India I witnessed firsthand the power of mobile technology to transform how people from all parts of the socioeconomic spectrum worked, played, and lived–on Nokia devices more than any other. This is what gave my professional life direction, what inspired me to move to Silicon Valley and dedicate myself to mobile technology in the first place, and the opportunity to be a part of the company that started it all for me is simply too exciting to pass up. I am honored and excited that Nokia has invited me to join in their journey of connecting the world’s billions.

2011 was a year of challenges for those of us at HP, and I worked with some that taught me a lot about overcoming adversity and working under pressure. I want to thank all of them for taking me under their wing and teaching me and making my time there so memorable. The webOS community of developers, hackers, and superfans is truly like nothing else. Even though I am trading my Pre3 for a Lumia 800, webOS will always have a special place in my heart.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a billion people to connect…

Where Apple’s iPhone Pricing Strategy (and the iPhone) Falls Apart

With the latest change to the iPhone lineup, Apple’s current iPhone segmentation strategy has come into focus:

The 2011 iPhone lineup

Rather than design a new phone specifically target the middle and lower segment, Apple simply keeps manufacturing and supporting previous years’ iPhones, which can be made at a lower cost as Apple squeezes down their component and assembly costs over time. To wit, Apple now sells the 2010-vintage iPhone 4 and the 2009-vintage 3GS alongside its brand new iPhone 4S.

There are many advantages to this strategy. Apple saves itself from the considerable engineering cost and effort of designing dozens of phones (and issuing specific software updates for them), and greatly simplifies its logistics with a smaller number of SKUs (Samsung has an astonishing 136 phones currently for sale, and that’s just in the United States).

If price were the only factor in making a phone suitable for the proverbial “next billion” or “bottom of the pyramid,” or whatever you want to call the vast majority of people who don’t live in the developed world, Apple’s strategy would be fantastically clever. Unfortunately, reality intervenes: Apple’s iPhones simply aren’t developing-world-friendly.

This isn’t mere conjecture; I spent 2 years working in India. The heat, humidity, dirt and dust, shocks and jostles, and the occasional monsoon make quick work of iPhones, whether you have them in a case or not. Of my class of half a dozen recruits, 3 of us arrived in India with iPhones, and all 3 of us had them break somewhere along the way. When my 3G bought the farm, I replaced it with a 3GS, which still managed to have its headphone jack fail, its dock connector warp, and its volume rocker mysteriously fall off in my remaining months in India–to say nothing of the white plastic housing that developed cracks and began to separate from the phone’s front. And even before it broke, my iPhone’s speaker was simply too small to really be heard in India’s crowded streets.

The developing world is where Apple’s iPhone pricing strategy–and the iPhone itself–falls apart.

Normally when one is looking to counter criticism of a particular Apple product or strategy, we can point to a chart of Apple’s gangbusters sales growth and profits as a rather effective counterpoint (“you may think not having flash in iOS is a dealbreaker, but evidently a hundred million iPhone customers disagree”). Alas, the naysayers have the upper hand when it comes to Apple’s strategy in India, where Apple sold a whopping 62,000 iPhones–fewer than it sold in such demographic giants as Belgium, Norway, and Israel.

The phone itself needs to be designed for the developing world with improved resistance to dust and moisture, louder speakers, and other features more appropriate to the wants and needs of the market beyond merely having the right price. Selling last year’s phone at a lower price is only addressing half the problem, which is why Apple continues to lose out to Android, Nokia, and RIM (RIM!!!) in India.

I have no doubt that Apple knows this. They are smart and forward-thinking. They know what they’re doing, and I’m sure they have a lower-cost, more durable iPhone in their labs. But I wish they would pull the trigger before India and the developing world–the hotbed of future mobile tech innovations–throw their weight behind Android and Nokia