Former Nokia head of design direction for service and UI design Adam Greenfield has lifted the lid on his two-year period at Espoo and commented on why he thinks the company has abandoned developing its own smartphone platform and buddied up with Microsoft instead.
Greenfield, who left Nokia last month, revealed his thoughts in a lengthy blog post that while never getting personal about anyone in particular, makes some damning comments about the organisation in general.
“Nokia’s problem is not, and has never been, that it lacks for creative, thoughtful, talented people, or the resources to turn their ideas into shipping product,” Greenfield wrote. “It’s that the company is fundamentally, and has always been, organised to trade in commodities.”
Those commodities, of course, are cheap mobile phones, and Nokia's strength in producing them speaks for itself when you compare its near-impregnable position in emerging markets with its crumbling market share at the high-end of the smartphone spectrum.
“There is still no organisation on the planet more capable at designing the guts of a phone, the various antennae and radios-on-a-chip that allow a handset to communicate with a network. Nor are there many who can compete with Nokia on the ability to optimise a supply chain and bring in a given bill of materials at a given (and generally astonishingly low) cost,” he wrote.
We've commented ourselves several times on Nokia's seeming inability to get new products out the door with any kind of speed, and it's a frustration that Greenfield felt all too keenly in his time at the company.
“Anybody wanting to launch anything at all had to secure layers (upon layers) of buy-in from people who – in many but certainly not all cases, and with all due respect – are not properly equipped to evaluate the merits of the propositions they’re being presented with,” he wrote.
“Nokia’s corporate culture served as a brake on all kinds of innovative thought.”
However, if Nokia's current predicament could be traced to a single mistake, Greenfield says, it was in failing to react when mobile phones started evolving from pure communication devices into interface objects aimed at delivering a rewarding user experience.
“The value-engineering mindset that’s so crucial to profitability as a commodity trader is fatal as a purveyor of experiences. Of course you still want to produce your offering for the lowest achievable cost [but] it’s just not particularly wise to allow engineers to make decisions about things like product and service nomenclature, interface typography and the graphic design of icons,” Greenfield argues.
“Another, blunter way of putting it: there’s nobody with any taste in the decision-making echelons at Nokia. And this is especially unfortunate and ironic, given that elegant, simple Finnish design has tutored generations in what taste means.
“Something tells me that Stephen Elop, whether or not he turns out to be a Trojan horse for Redmond, will be comprehensively unable to help in this department.”