Nokia's "Plan B" proposal is a recipe for disaster

A group of Nokia stockholders have posted a public letter with a suggested "Plan B" for the company that would do away with the Microsoft deal, fire CEO Stephen Elop, and essentially commit the company to a go-it-alone strategy. On paper, it sounds pretty. In real life, it would be headlong rush to yesterday, not a path to tomorrow.

The following two suggestions, taken from the group's public letter, are the core of what they believe will save the company:

Return the company to a strategy that seeks high growth and high profit margins through innovation and overwhelmingly superior products with unrivaled user experience.

Maintain ownership and control of the software layer of the Nokia products. Software is where innovation, differentiation and shareholder value can most easily be created.

To do that, the group suggests doing away with the Microsoft deal and have a Windows Phone 7 arrangement focus only on the North American market, standardizing on MeeGo as the company's smartphone platform, extending the life of Symbian, getting rid of the leadership team, and essentially doing a better overall job of software development.

In the ideal world, these would all be very smart steps. But the group ignores one basic fact: Nokia has already tried all this -- and failed. MeeGo has been the company's smartphone platform, Symbian was slated for a longer life, and software development was in-house.

Nokia failed at doing all that, which is why it's looking for a new direction. What the group wants Nokia to do is simple to say and, at this point, impossible to do. It would take years, and Nokia doesn't have years. It needs something today, which is why it signed the deal with Microsoft.

Change is hard, but only companies willing to accept their failures will learn from them and go on a new path succeed. Possibly the most notable example of this in technology is IBM, which was first rocked by the death of the mainframe business, then made its bet on PCs, and saw that go south for it as well. It's rebuilt itself essentially as a services, technology, and consulting company, and succeeded wildly.

Nokia's Elop was smart enough to recognize the company needed to go in a drastic new direction. The proposed "Plan B" would instead relegate the company to once again making the mistakes of its past.

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