If comparing your company to a burning oil platform in the North Sea is not a clear indication that things are not going well, I don’t know what else would.

This appears to be the gist of a memo from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop which was reported to have been circulated to Nokia employees recently and subsequently found its way on Engadget.

Nestor Arellano

Elop, the first non-Finnish CEO of Nokia, did not specifically state that the company was ditching its Symbian operating system but industry observers say it couldn’t have been clearer.

In the memo, Elop refers to an oil platform explosion where a sleeping man wakes up to find the entire platform on fire and must now face the decision of either being engulfed in flames or to dive into the “dark, cold foreboding” waters. “We too, are standing on a ‘burning platform’ and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour,” the memo published on Endgaget said.

For decades Nokia has been the market leader the mobile phone market but the growing trend towards smartphones has eroded its market share. Nokia, it appears is now faced with the choice of either going down with its once popular OS or adopting one of the current front runners. Symbian proved “be non-competitive in leading markets like North America,” according to the memo.

“The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things,” according to the memo.

“Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we build, or catalyze or join an ecosystem.”

With the disappointing results of its MeeGo campaign (Nokia’s smartphone OS) Nokia’s alternatives at the moment appear to be either adopt Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform or Google’s Android mobile OS.

If adoption numbers were the sole criteria, Android would be the hands down choice for Nokia to adopt.  Mobile app developers prefer Android over Apple iOS and Android sales has overrun that of the iPhone.

Although uptake on Windows Phone 7 have been less that stellar, Microsoft has done a decent job at developing a smartphone OS that can compete with Apple’s iOS. It also could serve Microsoft well to link with Nokia as the company is the world’s largest phone manufacturer and one with a well established distribution channel. Part of Windows Phone 7’s uptake problems is that phone makers such as HTC, Samsung and LG are currently more focused on Android.

Elop may have painted a dire picture with his burning platform analogy, but I agree with him in the end. The situation that Nokia is in presents an opportunity for the company to resurrect itself.

Elop ends the memo by saying the man in the platform was able to “take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same.”

Nestor is a Senior Writer at ITBUsiness.ca. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nestorarellano on Twitter, read his blogs on ITBusiness.ca Blogs and join the ITBusiness.ca Facebook Page.

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  • Two things that impressed me with all of the 4-5 Nokia phones I used over the years was durability and a well-designed interface. Compared to the home-grown interfaces Sony, LG and Motorola came up with Nokia’s always looked professional and 90% of the time things worked and where where you expected them to be. Add to that my phones took a beating for being frozen to dropped on pavement multiple times – they just kept working.

    I think an Android-powered Nokia could be a real winner.

  • Stuntman

    The Nokia phones I have use have been very rugged and durable as well. The voice quality is also very good compared to others that I have used.

    With regard to the burning memo, there is some errors and inconsistencies that suggest it may not be authentic. Some of the stats that are quoted in the memo appear to be wrong and it would be unlikely that Elop would make such errors.

    In any case, the memo has generated a great deal of publicity for Nokia ahead of its major announcement planned for tomorrow. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow to hear what Elop has to say about Nokia’s future direction.