Nokia on the Road to Hell?

Nokia shareholders are politely asking the Windows Phone maker to pick a new path, not the road to hell it's currently on.

On Tuesday, shareholder Hannu Virtanen told the hell-bound company's CEO Stephen Elop, "You're a nice guy ... and the leadership team is doing its best, but clearly, it's not enough," according to Reuters. He then asked, "Are you aware that results are what matter? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Please switch to another road."

I think Elop is well aware of the importance of results, but I have to admit that it's easy to wonder if he's lost his way. I was thinking the other day that I hadn't heard a peep from Nokia in quite some time when I saw Microsoft's latest Lumia 920 commercial making fun of the fanboy war between Apple and Samsung. The problem was that I didn't realize it was a Lumia commercial until the very end. All the attention was on Apple and Android.

That's how the market is, too. It seems that Nokia's big Windows Phone push hasn't really been that big at all. The Finnish company sold 5.6 million Lumia handsets in its first quarter, up from 4.4 million in the previous quarter, but only giving it 5 percent market share. (See Euronews: Nokia Devices Still on the Slide.)

The problem is, it's going to be quite hard to "switch to another road" at this point. I do think Nokia is smart to stay on the sidelines of the Apple and Android fight, but it has to find its niche elsewhere. Crawling back to Android is a lost cause -- it's too little, too late. At this point, its options may be to either focus on taking down BlackBerry, a tricky proposition given their relative enterprise offerings, or to become the champion of the cheap phone.

If it can capture the first-time buyers and emerging markets, where it already has inroads, Nokia may have a chance of escaping purgatory. It seems to realize this, as it's holding an event in India on Thursday where it will unveil a low-cost smartphone targeted at emerging markets. It also just appointed a new general manager for China, Erik Bertman, who takes over June 1.

At the same time, Nokia is not giving up on the high end. Its oft-rumored Lumia 928 is expected to come soon to Verizon. (See Nokia Flagship to Sail Onto Verizon in May?)

I don't know if the emerging markets will be enough to save Nokia, but just staying the course doesn't seem like the best move. I wouldn't be as dramatic as Virtanen to say Nokia is headed to hell, but things will certainly get heated where it's going.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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