Nokia to Europe: U Mad Bro?

Nokia has had some trying times recently, to say the least; they got a new CEO in Stephen Elop who had less than stellar things to say, they dropped their long running mobile OS Symbian, and killed MeeGo before it even launched. When all seemed to be on the brink, they launched their new flagship phone (the Lumia 900) in the United States . . . only to find there’s a software bug in it.

That’s not to say nothing good has been happening, however.  That aforementioned bug was fixed in record time, and everyone who had purchased the Lumia got a $100 credit sent directly to them (whether they had the error or not).  The Lumia itself has had rave reviews and AT&T can’t seem to keep it in stores with how quickly it’s selling and even the retail powerhouse that is Amazon Mobile is having issues keeping enough in stock.

So why is Nokia still sinking?

Last week on the podcast we asked the question as to why Europeans seem to hate American software companies.  It seems silly and a tad bit paranoid, but there does seem to be a general resentment against Microsoft, Apple, and Google overseas.  While we weren’t really able to come to any sort of answer on the show, I think I might have come with one since then; because we aren’t them.  Sounds dumb, right?  I mean, duh.  But let’s put this in reverse:

A new car company comes from Europe and starts selling cars in the United States.  In this hypothetical world, this has never happened before.  They are the only ones who import from Europe and they have no factories to make the cars domestically.  They are better than anything we produce here and they know it.  Their management boasts that they know what we want and what’s best for us and anything we’ve ever had before has just been a pale attempt.

Well, what would happen?  You might say that capitalism would reign supreme and if they were truly better than we’d learn from it.  But that isn’t entirely true.  We have a sense of national pride in what we produce and anything foreign is a slap in the face of that.  Don’t believe me?  Try talking to my ex-father-in-law; he would tell me every chance he got how much better his GERMAN-made Jeep was compared to my FORD-made Mazda.  It didn’t matter where the cars actually came from, Jeep is American and Mazda is Japanese.  People are silly this way, and they act the same way all over the world.

American designed, made, and marketed . . . the All-American truck is a Nissan

What’s strange to me is that Europe seems to be ultra sensitive towards the United States concerning it.  No one takes offense at some Asian company coming in and making electronics for you; it’s what Asian’s do, right?  Sounds racist? You bet it is.  It’s also how every single electronics consumer in the world thinks.  Asian countries don’t mind American products because 1) they’re cool and 2) they’re easy to duplicate.  As far as they are concerned America is just a giant Research & Development team who’s pumping out ideas directly into their manufacturing line.  Europe, however, doesn’t like America.  They don’t think America’s products are cool and they lack any means to duplicate or manufacture themselves.

Let’s return to the sad case of Nokia, then.  Nokia was Europe’s leader in cell phones and is still huge over there.  Yet while the Lumia can’t stay on the shelves in the States, it’s not seeing any real sales in Europe.  The reason, I believe, is because Europeans are pissed at Nokia.  To be even more specific, they are especially pissed at Stephen Elop.  Elop came in directly from Microsoft (who the EU already doesn’t like) and immediately gave Nokia a hard dose of reality.  In a letter we wrote about a year ago, he basically told everyone at Nokia how they had failed and how the company’s pride (it’s Symbian OS) was on fire.  He then killed off MeeGo before it ever launched, laid off the entire Symbian OS development team and announced Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft.

Let’s just forget for a moment that everything he said in that letter was 100% true and that Symbian was a joke of an OS.  Nokia was Europe’s ONLY mobile phone powerhouse.  Symbian was Europe’s ONLY mobile OS.  It didn’t matter to them that it was a complete disaster; it was THEIR disaster.  They didn’t want things to work in a way that made sense, they wanted things the “Nokia way”.  Apple users in the late 1990′s were like this too.  RIM users still are like this.  Elop came in and shined a direct spotlight on their beloved platform and dared to challenge them that perhaps it was time they move on.

Europe didn’t like that . . . and I believe these faltering sales figures are proving that.

The traditional European "We're Not As Happy As We'd Like To Be" festival

Don’t believe me that such a thing can happen?  In either 1999 or 2000 (can’t immediately remember which) the band Barenaked Laides made a music video in the US.  While they had been around for quite some time and were at the height of their popularity, this was their first video made in the United States.  Fans did not like the video at all.  The reason?  Because it wasn’t shot in Canada!  Angry messages hit the band’s message boards and fan clubs.  It didn’t matter that the song was a hit and everyone loved it, nor did it matter the album itself was a huge success.  Canadian fans felt betrayed by it and there was nothing the band could do to make them like that video.  Just because of where it was made.

In much the same way, former Nokia fans are now rebelling against Elop and his decision to move to Windows Phone 7.  In it’s latest earnings report, Nokia is expecting a net loss of 1.6 billion euros in the first quarter.  This marks their fifth consecutive quarter at a loss.  Meanwhile, Research In Motion (who we might have mentioned from time to time) is actually seeing an increase in sales across the pond!

The message couldn’t be clearer: We don’t care if it’s half-assed, we just want something other than American!