Nokia CEO Stephen Elop spoke with Finnish television station YLE, responding to a range of issues, including yesterday’s layoff announcements, as well as Nokia’s position on tablets.
Elop said that while the layoffs are unfortunate, they’re necessary for the survival of the company. Nokia plans to send most of its Symbian team to Accenture, which Elop said will make Accenture “another large global player who will have a significant research and development presence here in Finland.”
Addressing concerns that Nokia would abandon Finland for places like Silicon Valley in the United States, Elop stressed that “R&D in Finland remains the heart and soul of the company.”
Nokia is in a tenuous situation in Finland, as most of the employees that it will be laying off were educated in Finland at the expense of taxpayers. Elop said that Nokia has been working closely with the Finnish government to ensure that things go smoothly and it is living up to its social responsibilities at home.
Nokia has also announced a plan that would facilitate entrepreneurial opportunities for employees affected by the layoffs.
As for how Nokia plans to re-engage the competitive device market, Elop said that Nokia will maintain its strategy of providing consumers with a variety of price points. He targeted Android as Nokia’s most worrisome competitor because “the Android ecosystem is the one that today is showing the greatest threat of covering a broad range of price points,” he said. Apple, he added, has always addressed just the high end of the market, making it less of a concern.
Without offering any specifics, Elop said it was “very possible” that Nokia could have its first Windows Phone 7 device available by the fourth quarter of 2011. However, he admitted that “2012 is when we’ll see a portfolio of products shipping in volume.”
Nokia has been on shaky ground over the past few years, as its dated operating system of choice, Symbian, fell behind in the smartphone game. In 2007, the company held a 64 percent share of the global smartphone market. Today, that share has shrunk to right around 26 percent. Elop said that he believes Nokia’s strong brand and reputation will provide the foundation for a revival of sorts, although he cautioned that it will be a rocky road.
Look no further than Nokia’s gloomy second quarter guidance for exactly how rocky that road might be. While the first quarter’s dismal earnings were perhaps not quite as dismal as analysts had expected, the company expects “greater impact” from the tragic events in Japan than it experienced in the first quarter 2011, particularly relating to component shortages. Add to that a lack of new products for the next couple quarters and Nokia’s near-term future looks pretty bleak.
When asked whether Nokia will be addressing the tablet market in the future, Elop said it’s a possibility but expressed some reservations. “There are now over 200 different tablets on the marketplace, only one of them is doing really well… We have to take a uniquely Nokia perspective and so the teams are working very hard on something that would be differentiating relative to everything else that’s going on in the market,” he said.
For now, the objective for Nokia seems to be getting to market with a new product as fast as possible, but Elop said quality is a must as well. “We’re always in a hurry to do the right things, but we’re mostly in a hurry to do the right thing,” he said.