Janne shared some thoughts on the Nokia AGM Meeting yesterday. Janne did share some snippets and soundbites with me yesterday but there was a lot of tips too on this (and many others) that I didn’t get to cover as I am just too busy with uni at the moment.
There are some topics of controversy, but please, lets keep the comments amicable. Try not to antagonise others. Opinion is fine, it’s just the way you direct your opinion that can unnecessarily antagonise.
I do particularly loathe the banner of ‘fact and truth’ wielded by some, especially when people do use undeniable fact but only cherry pick what they present so as to end up with a different conclusion, or worse, just use equal speculation but presented as facts. Hopefully you may see all as presented here.
So, Nokia held its annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday for shareholders. It took place in Helsinki, Finland. The Nokia annual general meeting – as is any general meeting – is a rare treat, as it provides an opportunity for non-media types (as long as you have at least one company share) to pose their questions to the senior management of the company and also expect to get some sort of answers then and there. This year the Q&A went on for perhaps five of the almost six hours of the meeting. Unfortunately as the meeting is held in Finland and mostly in Finnish (although with Elop this has changed), it is not very well covered by the English-speaking blogosphere.
One notable report on yesterday’s meeting came from the Communities Dominate Brands blog here (http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/05/what-do-we-now-know-after-nokia-shareholder-meeting-that-the-future-is-far-worse-than-we-thought.html). I was happy to see the AGM covered, but reading the CDB posting made me feel like we attended two different meetings. I just can’t agree with the way the meeting was described in that post, so I decided to offer my own point of view. I originally intended to do this as a comment on the blog, but considering all the reports of comments getting deleted and/or ignored, I thought this might better serve the MNB audience as a glimpse of what went down at the AGM.
I attended for the duration of the entire meeting and made extensive notes, so I think my position is pretty accurate. Of course I accept that some things people can hear and interpret differently, so consider this just my point of view – additional fodder for the proverbial cannon. Also, I am just reporting what I feel was said, not on the accuracy or believability of what was said. That I leave up to anyone to consider.
On the N9 sales
The CDB article on the Nokia AGM does not mention Nokia N9, but in an early post (http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/05/what-do-we-now-know-after-nokia-shareholder-meeting-that-the-future-is-far-worse-than-we-thought.html) there it was estimated that the N9 sold 1.75M in Q4 and 2.2M in Q1, give or take a margin of error. More so, it was argued there that the N9 has outsold Lumia (which we know sold more than 1M by late January and more than 2M during Q1). This was actually asked about from Stephen Elop at the meeting and he put the question to rest in no uncertain terms: while agreeing that it is not a fair comparison because N9 launched in smaller markets and with less marketing, he did say Lumia outsold the totality of N9s sold very quickly after its launch – in a matter of weeks I think he said. This would seem to concur with the likes of the Canalys analysis which estimated around 600K N9 sold in Q4 and then probably less than that in Q1. So, obviously the N9 did not, according to Elop, sell 2.2M or anywhere near that in Q1. The N9 probably did outsell Lumia in Q4, though, since it launced much earlier.
On reseller boycott
CDB has been arguing that there is a reseller boycott against Nokia/Lumia and that Stephen Elop confirmed as much at the AGM. I can not really agree with that assessment of Elop’s words. He did acknowledge, as he did in the earnings release, that Lumia’s sales were a mixed bag with the UK highlighted as an especially tough market. He said it was performing below expectations there. Finland, again a market where CDB has been saying there is a reseller boycott, was actually told to be doing excellent and Nokia was again number 1 on some metric (I forgot what) after loosing the spot for a while. And the USA was also exceeding expectations, according the Elop the Lumia 900 selling more than was expected from an AT&T hit device (other than iPhone) and thus they estimated the manufacturing capacity wrong. The fair way to put Elop’s words in my opinion would be that he acknowledges the importance of reseller input to customer purchases, in fact spent much time on this in many questions. He did this already in interviews last year, so it is not like this is news to him. I get the sense that he understands this, and the fact that it is hard to break in as a third player beside iPhone and Android, but I did not get the sense of acknowledgement of some overarching boycott. That would be stretching his words beyond recognition in my opinion. He acknowledged tougher markets, named UK and attributed this to older Nokia products hurting the brand (read: N97), but on the other hand the experiences he cited with AT&T, T-Mobile or Finland told a different story for those markets and indeed praised the support from operator partners there.
This is the part that prompted my to write my response, I can not for the life of me agree with the way Elop’s words were portrayed by CDB. Elop was indeed asked about whether or not carrier relations were being hurt by Microsoft buying Skype. And indeed, Elop did acknowledge that some carriers (he said especially those with a landline business) do not like Skype. But then he actually went on claiming, that this was an upside for Nokia, completely contrary to how CDB paints its picture. Elop continued by saying that Skype is also on the iPhone and Android, so the same problem persists there, but that Nokia and Microsoft could offer the carriers unique propositions due to controlling Skype. Not only removing Skype from devices if need be, but also perhaps packing it with carrier-specific services (maybe a special data plan), that create additional revenue for the carrier. Elop only acknowledged the general attitude towards Skype from some carriers, said it is the same for all smartphone platforms, and then went on to actually claim a competitive advantage for Lumia and Windows Phone because they control what Skype is and can be, together with the carriers. At no point did Elop acknowledge someone was boycotting them because Microsoft bought Skype, and I was listening to this answer very intently. I can’t believe the conclusions CDB made from the answer!
Just a few notes of my own: Elop refused to comment on Ollila’s interview comments about Nokia tablets, but reading into his words, I’d agree that Nokia is planning on launching a Windows 8 tablet. In many places throughout the meeting, Elop and others underlined the Windows 8 halo effect. They are clearly planning on being a big part of the Windows 8 launch and believe it to be financially satisfying. Time will tell, of course.
Finally onto to two more topics that CDB did not cover, that I tought I’d mention:
On Symbian and the Burning Platform memo. Asked about did he think it hurt Symbian, Elop said he believes it did hurt Symbian. He was being frank about it. He maintained that Symbian was undeniably on a downward trajectory and was being rejected by more and more markets in their assessment before February 11th. Indeed, again Nokia’s troubles in software development and keeping Symbian up to date was mentioned as the main theme in why Nokia needed to change strategy, by both chairman Jorma Ollila and Stephen Elop. Elop said Symbian products had been coming “later and later, with lower and lower quality”. Elop said that he believes Nokia would be worse off if it had not gone fully behind Windows Phone a year ago but only partially, because now they would be behind in the new strategy and out of time because Symbian would fail in any case. Believe it or not, of course, but that was his message. Jorma Ollila reiterated on exceptionally strong words that the change in strategy was mutual, decisions and reasons for it agreed and approved by the board and that Stephen Elops had his and their full trust. At least there was a very united front on the topic of Symbian.
On plan B
Stephen Elop put it on record that their plan B is to keep always adjusting, learning and changing. There was no talk of “plan A is plan B”, just an acknowledgement that they are not set in their ways, but always adjusting. He cited the Lumia 610 as an example of a change they made, it was not in the original plan with Microsoft, but they changed that as it became apparent how low they had to go in price. He also said the staggered launched they have made for products have allowed them to learn from mistakes made. Also Future Disruptions was mentioned several times, including listing some things they are working on there: new materials (think bendy, think water resistant etc.), new user-experiences, new ecosystems, new power management. Elop also mentioned parts of MeeGo living on there.
On 808 PureView
Overall it was an interesting, but exhausting meeting. I had the privilege of testing the new Nokia 808 PureView there, they had a demonstration area for it with a miniature city that could be photographed. I was impressed with the physical quality of the device, although the very heavy sensor made it feel a bit lopsided, but that just goes to the professional feeling of it all. The screen was surprisingly good for the low resolution, the RGB ClearBlack AMOLED with the curving Corning Gorilla Class looked spectacular. This is one of those phones that look better in real life. And of course the pictures were great, especially in the oversampling PureView mode. Pixels on the full-resolution mode looked a little less good when zoomed in, but that is to be expected of course. Still, very usable quality even in the dark demonstration area for the full-resolution pictures. I reserve final judgement on Symbian Belle FP1 for later, but what I did get to experience was very snappy and fast. I did not try the browser, only the menus and the camera.
Stephen Elop also praised the 808 PureView in his comments many times and had the device on the stage with him. He showed a picture on the projector that he had taken in China. It showed a panda in a zoo I guess, and then another picture of the panda’s face upclose. Then he went on to say how this was the same picture, just zoomed in. It did look impressive even on that large projected screen.