It's a date that's no doubt etched into Nokia fans' minds: February 11, 2011.
That was the day Nokia boss Stephen Elop followed his now-infamous “burning platform” comments of a few days earlier with the announcement that Nokia was shifting its smartphone operations onto Windows Phone 7.
The move caused a lot of bitterness both inside Nokia itself and in the wider world around it, with many not trusting Elop's motives in choosing the mobile platform of his former employer Microsoft as the basis for Nokia's future.
In a fascinating piece in BusinessWeek, however, we get the most detailed look yet at the events leading up to Elop's landmark decision, including the moment the penny dropped that MeeGo – the smartphone OS Nokia was basing so much of its future on – wasn't going to do the business.
Elop was already concerned about the gap between Symbian and the likes of Android and iOS when he joined Nokia in September 2010, as well as the time it was taking to develop MeeGo, and immediately began cautiously sounding out the possibility of partnering with an outside software platform.
However, the real moment of truth came in early January when Nokia chief development officer Kai Oistämö met with Elop to discuss concerns over MeeGo's process, and the pair decided to interview two dozen key employees about the platform.
“Before the first interview, Elop drew out what he knew about the plans for MeeGo on a whiteboard, with a different colour marker for the products being developed, their target date for introduction, and the current levels of bugs in each product,” the BusinessWeek piece reads.
“Soon the whiteboard was filled with colour, and the news was not good: At its current pace, Nokia was on track to introduce only three MeeGo-driven models before 2014 – far too slow to keep the company in the game.
“Elop tried to call Oistämö, but his phone battery was dead. 'He must have been trying an Android phone that day,' says Elop. When they finally spoke late on January 4, 'it was truly an oh-s--t moment – and really, really painful to realize where we were,' says Oistämö.
“Months later, Oistämö still struggles to hold back tears. 'MeeGo had been the collective hope of the company,' he says, 'and we'd come to the conclusion that the emperor had no clothes. It's not a nice thing.'”
Little more than a month later, Elop announced the partnership with Microsoft to adopt Windows Phone 7. The piece also confirms that Elop had first approached Google about adopting Android, but had backed off because Google wasn't prepared to give Nokia preferential treatment over even its smallest partners, which would have left Nokia's 11,600 engineers with little scope for adding their innovations to the base Android platform.
In all, the piece runs to seven pages, but it's well worth the effort for an insight into a story that's still after all in the process of developing.