Nokia has gone from the world’s leading smartphone manufacturer to a company on the edge of disaster.Last week, the company announced a major restructuring, including layoffs of 10,000 employees and a bunch of executive replacements, and lowered its guidance for the second quarter.
The company is already trailing every other major manufacturer in smartphone shipments (see chart).
Yesterday, Microsoft made Nokia’s problems much worse.
Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8, the next version of its mobile platform. As part of the announcement, Microsoft admitted that no current Windows Phones will be upgradeable to the new platform.
Recent Windows Phone customers will get the new start screen. But most of the major new features, like NFC support and NFC-based wireless sharing, new maps (provided by Nokia, which is faint consolation), the digital wallet for storing coupons and credits, and Internet Explorer 10, will not be available to any current Windows Phone customer.
Windows Phone 8 also supports a lot of new technology for developers — for instance, they can write apps in C and C++, and can create voice-over-Internet apps that work like regular cell phone calls. Those technologies aren’t supported on Windows Phone 7, which means a lot of Windows Phone 8 apps won’t work on the current platform.
Microsoft had to announce the break eventually — developers need time to create apps for the new platform, and rumours of a platform break had been circulating since February anyway.
But in doing so, Microsoft just killed the market for Windows Phones. No customer will buy one today knowing that it will be outdated in months.
So Nokia’s smartphone sales, already small, will probably grind to a halt for the next few months until Windows Phone 8 is out.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop — who joined from Microsoft in 2010 and made the fateful decision to choose Windows Phone rather than Android (or stick with Symbian) — must have known this was coming. But he probably understated the case when he said that Nokia didn’t expect sales to pick up in Q3.
In all likelihood, Nokia smartphone sales in Q3 will approach zero. The only question is if Nokia’s other products will generate enough cash to keep the company afloat.
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