Here is an interesting piece that Dimitrios Vlachos wrote that showed many proto Nokia devices on Twitter recently. Dimitrios contacted me regarding some Info he had about Nokia deciding to go from Symbian to Windows Phone and not Android. He instantly got my attention because Symbian is a trigger word for me :).
We chew this topic over and over here at Nokiamob, but Dimitrios had a chance of interviewing a former Nokia developer that shared his insights on why Nokia switched from Symbian to WP and not to hugely appreciated Android back in the days. The main protagonists are Qt, a Broadcom chipset and Google vs Oracle lawsuit.
Apparently, Broadcom and Oracled had their fingers in it, but here is the story. The source of the info is not known to me, just to Dimitrios.
Broadcom & Oracle: The arsonists of the Burning Platform
Some time in April, a person who had worked for Nokia during the Elop/early Microsoft era contacted me over Twitter. Being a software developer at the time, enabled him to provide his own insights into the events that led to Symbian’s demise, the cancellation of Meltemi and Nokia rejecting Android altogether as a valid option for its smartphones operating system. I interviewed him extensively, and based on his allegations, I redacted this very editorial. Note that I tried to keep most of his words intact, by correcting and adding as least things as possible, in order to prevent any semantic alterations. Last but not least, the opinions stated below are far from being the one and only truth; they just provide the reader with another point of view on the tragic events that caused Nokia’s fall.
How did Broadcom’s delays lead to Symbian’s death?
According to him, the original Symbian^3 platform was based on the IVE3 and was running upon the Broadcom BCM2727 SoC. However, this chipset wasn’t able to meet the minimum technical requirements in order to run the updated, Qt-enabled version of Symbian (internally known as Symbian^4). Of course, there was an updated SoC coming soon; the BCM2763. It was promised to Nokia by its manufacturer early on, so all its product portfolio plans (hardware & software) were solely based on that. However, Broadcom delayed it over and over. That led to the cancellation of the purely Qt-based version of Symbian; Nokia really had to pull the plug if it wanted to stay afloat and catch up with its competitors.
This event was the final hurt to Nokia’s dream; making Qt a viable third ecosystem able to compete with Android and iOS. They wanted eventually, Meltemi, MeeGo and Symbian to share the exact same app store; in other words, to run the same applications with zero code modifications from their developers. This fitted really well with their
idea of making devices as cheap as possible; Connecting People was Nokia’s forever mantra after all. And at that time, they weren’t focusing on the high-end segment as much, but more on budget devices, suitable for first-time smartphone buyers.
In my source’s opinion, Nokia succeeded really well with it. They didn’t win the corporate game, but they surely got their desired results. Most people own a smartphone nowadays. And this wouldn’t be possible without Nokia making mobile tech in a way that was accessible to everyone, for more than a decade (even to other manufacturers, with patents that are still today open-source).
For the record, the upcoming IVE3.5 was in the making already, as Nokia was still selling a lot of Symbian-based devices (even though its Qt-based version never got materialised). IVE3.5 finally shipped into the Nokia Helen, commercially known as the 701.
What is Oracle’s involvement in Nokia’s Windows Phone decision?
With its Qt-based ecosystem out of the equation, Nokia was left with only one truly viable solution; embracing Google’s Android OS. So, why didn’t Nokia proceed with that?
The answer lies in the Google versus Oracle legal battle. Oracle, at the time, figured that they were sitting on a potential “gold mine”, had they executed their legal attack at the right moment. They knew that Google’s Android was using their own IPR without any legal agreement (i.e. illegally). But they couldn’t sue Alphabet, as, back then, Google wasn’t actively manufacturing phones.
Oracle had to wait patiently for some massive manufacturer to choose Android; then they would begin the lawsuit “storm”. However, back then, Android was only used by smaller (comparatively with Nokia and Apple) companies, like Sony, Huawei and Samsung. Oracle wasn’t really interested in sueing those, as the royalty income
wouldn’t be that much. They craved for a much, much bigger “victim”.
Sadly for them, things didn’t quite go as planned. Nokia surprisingly teamed up with Microsoft and switched their portfolio to Windows Phone overnight; so Oracle’s waiting game failed miserably.
You might be thinking that Nokia (not to be confused with HMD Global) did eventually produce some Android devices; under the X Series brand and the N1 tablet. However, both projects were quickly terminated (in that case not because of the Google vs Oracle legal battle, which was already dismissed by then, but due to the pressure from Ballmer and later Nadella).
Not many are able to fully understand that this is (a huge contributing factor to) why Nokia made the Windows Phone decision so quickly. But, according to my source, this is one of the big (of not the major) reasons.
A side-note about MeeGo:
You may also wonder why Nokia didn’t use MeeGo instead of Windows Phone. My source’s guess is that MeeGo couldn’t be scaled down so much for cheaper, entry-level devices to be produced; a target that was really more possible with Microsoft’s mobile OS.