ANALYSIS
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The great traitor

Microsoft’s Elop has hollowed out Nokia from within the heart of the Finnish former giant

The famous wooden horse, brought into Troy with soldiers hidden in its belly to destroy the city from within, was child’s play compared with what Stephen Elop has done to Finland’s technological flagship. In three years he has brought Nokia to a state of ruin and handed it over on a platter to Microsoft, the company he used to work for.

The work done by Elop at Nokia (2010-13) has operated grossly and barefacedly in favor of Microsoft and against the very company that was paying him, in the face of the passivity of the board. Elop, formerly employed at Microsoft, arrived at Nokia when it had a 30-percent quota of the cellphone market and was valued at $12 per share, and leaves it with three percent of the market and a value of $3 a share. Of the former 125,000 employees there remain only 97,000. When he arrived, Nokia had quarterly profits of 820 million euros; now it loses more than 100 million. The Symbiam operating system was the leader in the world, and now it has practically ceased to exist. He has also succeeded in closing down all of Nokia’s manufacturing plants in Finland.

All this, he kept repeating time and again, for the sake of a shining future for Nokia. Well, no. The shining future will be for Microsoft.

Europe, long without computer manufacturers, is now without producers of cellphones. Perhaps the punctilious EU commissioner Neelie Kroes ought to reconsider Brussels’ technological-development aid to Nokia, which is now US-owned. Perhaps, too, some sort of professional-ethics commission ought to consider the case. Such commissions must exist in Finland, one of the least corrupt countries in the world — at least until Elop arrived there.

The cellphone industry has never seen a plunge like this: from 34 percent to three percent in less than three years. This debacle has not come about by chance

Elop has been the great traitor of Nokia. His very hiring brought criticism, coming as he did from Microsoft. The doubts were soon justified by the announcement that Nokia was to dispense with its Symbiam operating system, the world leader. But its demise — which might have happened later than it did — was announced not in favor of the system that Nokia was then developing, Meego, but rather in favor of a Microsoft system that was still a year from emerging on to the market. He accelerated the death of Symbiam, and thus of Nokia. No consumer was about to buy a system that was going to disappear within a year.

The cellphone industry has never seen a plunge like this: from 34 percent to three percent in less than three years. This debacle has not come about by chance. It is the result of methodical, premeditated work to sink a trademark and favor another: Microsoft. Elop not only decided that Nokia’s operating system was a botch. He also decided on its substitute, Microsoft, and most suspiciously of all, the substitution was to be exclusive. Samsung, Huawei, HTC, LG, ZTE all manufacture cellphones with different systems. Nokia, now only with Microsoft. Worse still, Nokia’s fidelity to the Redmond, Washington firm was not returned, for Microsoft even introduced its Windows Phone operating system with other trademarks.

Without a doubt, if Nokia had marketed cellphones with Android, its market quota would not have plunged so far, nor would it if Nokia had not announced the death of Symbiam. But the pact with Microsoft has favored only one party.

If this 21st-century Trojan horse strategy was invented by Steve Ballmer, he certainly deserves a gilded retirement. He has succeeded in buying Nokia for a song; he has had a trusty executive within Nokia working for him; the salary, the bonuses, the cars and the house being all at the expense of Nokia. Rome did not pay traitors, but it seems that Redmond does. Microsoft is now keeping Elop in a vice-president’s chair, until he succeeds to Ballmer’s job.