Ballmer's best idea... not so much

Published by at

Everyone loves a good 'Orlowski retrospective' editorial and this one, looking back at the last 20 years of Nokia, Microsoft and Windows (among other OS) is also well worth a read. In parallel with my own 10 reasons why Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile ultimately failed, of course.

From Andrew Orlowski's piece, provocatively and slightly misleadingly titled 'It's been 5 years already, let's gawp at Microsoft and Nokia's bloodbath':

Almost all of the 32,000 employees of Nokia's phone division subsequently lost their jobs, and CEO Stephen Elop was personally vilified as the agent in an elaborate conspiracy theory.

Some of this angst is justifiable. The deal had been done by outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who called it his "best idea". The deal formally closed weeks after Ballmer's successor Satya Nadella took the reins.

Nadella, though, didn't see the point of the acquisition – as he later admitted – and the Microsoft board had been lukewarm the whole time.

El Reg was told that Nadella had personally assured top staff who didn't know whether to stay with Nokia under the new owner that the future was bright. And in one-on-one situations, he can be incredibly persuasive. But public statements were ambivalent, and Nadella's would become notorious for their obfuscation. Jean-Louise Gasseé called the verbose, word-mangling Nadella "a repeat befuddler" and shrewdly predicted phones were for the chop.

The axe soon started swinging.

The article spans two 'El Reg' pages and is well worth a read. It's fascinating how, looking back on the last 20 years, it's impossible to pin any of the blame for the failure of Windows Phone, the lack of evolution of Symbian, or the fall from grace of Nokia, on any one factor or person. There are multiple failures and almost everyone involved is to blame to some degree.

Yes, Ballmer, Elop, Nadella and the Nokia board over a decade are the main culprits and it's easy to write a new 'what if' story at any point in the timeline. But as ever, the more one digs into the whole decade and industry-spanning saga, the more complications, factors and villains one finds.

You could argue that peak Nokia and Symbian/S60 'did their job' in terms of bringing in sales and market share (2004-2010), but 'Windows Phone' will always remain a project that never really fulfilled its potential.

PS. I'm glad it's not just me that finds Satya Nadella's buzzword-infused keynotes and interviews lacking in hard substance - it seems that Andrew agrees. 

Source / Credit: The Register