LONDON – A leaked internal memo from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has read the proverbial "riot act" to the company's staff by likening the company to an oil worker facing death on a burning oil rig.
He goes further and says Nokia is underperforming, failing to make changes quickly enough and that its own mobile phone platforms are burning up under the heat from the likes of Apple, Google and MediaTek.
The point of Elop's lengthy story is that while the oil rig worker would never normally jump into the icy waters of the North Sea the "burning platform" forces a radical change in behavior, and the worker thereby survives to tell the tale.
In the memo Elop admits that Apple has redefined and now owns the high-end of the smartphone range and that MediaTek, with systems partners in Shenzhen region of China, has energized the low-end creating an ecosystem that is responsible for approaching one third of mobile phones sold globally. Symbian is described as "non-competitive" and as a "difficult environment" to develop in.
The catalogue of self-flagellating woes does not end there; Elop adds that its own MeeGo initiative is going too slowly. "However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market," Elop said in his memo.
Tellingly Elop states that Nokia is trying to fend off agile competition with the wrong tools. It is fighting on a device-by-device basis when really the battle is between whole ecosystems, something which Nokia has, presumably, neglected to develop.
It is not clear whether the leaking of this memo was deliberate but the timing immediately prior to the Mobile World Congress is bound to keep Nokia at the top of the news.
The full text of the memo could be read at the Financial Times.