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Farewell Nokia, you deserved better than this

OPINION Stephen Elop has confirmed what everyone feared, the Nokia name will cease to appear on phones in the near future. Andy Vandervell argues it’s an insulting end for a great name.

Was this the intention all along? Yes, it probably was. When Stephen Elop made the jump from Microsoft to become Nokia CEO in 2010, pundits and analysts quickly caught onto the idea this was the opening gambit in a future acquisition.

Elop’s infamous ‘burning platform’ memo, in which he outlined his vision to abandon Nokia’s Symbian roots (and its MeeGo replacement) in favour of Windows Phone, only fueled the speculation. When the subsequent acquisition was announced in September last year, no one could even muster feigned surprise.

It was all so predictable.

But the fashionable narrative of Elop as the sole villain of the piece is slightly misleading, though only very slightly. Did Elop make mistakes? Definitely. His infamous memo did a great deal of damage to Nokia’s smartphones sales, and there’s at least some reasonable doubt about whether he was acting in Nokia’s or Microsoft’s best interests. But this ignores the fact that Nokia had become a deeply dysfunctional company long before Elop came blundering in.

While we love to remember Nokia classics, like the N95 and 6310, Nokia’s ‘post iPhone’ products were a deeply flawed bunch. While Apple was conquering all with the iPhone 3G in July 2008, Nokia’s response was the N96, a minor upgrade on the N95 that failed to capture imaginations.

Nokia N96
The Nokia N96

As our review at the time stated:

“While everyone else is trying to catch and beat the iPhone – and a few are coming very, very close to succeeding – Nokia has merely bashed out a slightly better N95. If you loved the N95 that’s not a disaster: it’s a pretty sure thing that you’ll like the N96 even more. If not, however, there are other, more exciting phones out there for this kind of money.”

The N97, which arrived a year after the iPhone, was a clunky QWERTY slider from a bygone age, while Nokia’s most direct iPhone alternative, the X6, merely laid bare the inadequacies of the software powering it. Nokia was hopelessly under prepared and slow to respond.

More recently, however, we’ve seen a reminder of all the reasons why we came love Nokia in the first place. Until HTC’s recent efforts with the One M8, Nokia could reasonably claim to be the only phone brand that designed phones as desirable as the iPhone, while its innovations in camera hardware and software are beyond doubt.

Of course, it’s these qualities (and its manufacturing/distribution infrastructure) that attracted Microsoft to Nokia in the first place. But the fact the Nokia name won’t adorn its efforts anymore just feels wrong. One or two duds aside, it produced some of the most iconic and memorable phones ever and it deserves better than this apologetic footnote of an ending.

Next, read our Windows Phone 8.1 review

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