15. The near-miss merger
The early history of Nokia’s S60 (Series 60) has eerie similarities to that of Symbian itself:
- Initially, the endeavour seemed to be winning a lot of market interest. Leading phone manufacturers such as Siemens (May 2002), Panasonic (July 2002), and Samsung (August 2002) were all announced as licensees of S60. One after another, these companies announced commitments to create phones that included Symbian OS and Nokia S60. Companies that might have been expected to utilise Microsoft’s mobile platforms spurred the embrace from Seattle and instead chose Nokia’s solution
- However, the early interest was achieved at the cost of significant over-confidence about the capability of the platform; Nokia’s S60 sales team made claims which turned out to be at significant variance from the reality of what the platform could deliver
- In the rush to make S60 available for wide licensee usage, architectural short-cuts were made which would take considerable time to undo in subsequent years
- Just as Symbian licensees grew sceptical about Symbian’s ability to deliver high quality software on time, the licensees of S60 changed their minds about Nokia’s software delivery capabilities
- Nevertheless, despite the shortcomings of the initial releases compared to expectations, the basic appeal of the platforms remained strong.
The similarities go further. The legal frameworks for companies to use S60, although intended to be straightforward, imposed conditions which many third parties were reluctant to accept. The community was far from being as “open” as the platform intended.
It’s not surprising that the two teams felt a lot of kindred spirit. We realised we had common aims, but faced common challenges. Increasingly, we realised our destinies were intertwined, as forecasts of Symbian revenues showed an ever-greater proportion of these revenues coming from S60 licensees. We also realised that, by existing inside two separate organisations, operating under separate business constraints and separate overall strategies, there were significant obstacles to the effectiveness of our collaboration. How could our collaboration improve?
That was a question that occupied a great deal of management attention on both the Symbian and Nokia sides during 2004. This chapter tells the story of not one, but two, bold attempts to merge the two organisations.
The need for a closer working relationship between Symbian and S60 becomes clear when reflecting on the experiences of the non-Nokia licensees of S60. The experiences of these licensees had a lot in common, but were most intense in the case of Samsung.
In the middle of May 2004, Morgan Gillis dropped into my room in Symbian’s Boundary Row office, with an idea that he wanted to share. Morgan was EVP of Sales and Professional Services, and had a keen appreciation for which licensee projects were running well, and which were not. He was particularly concerned about Samsung’s projects.
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