Why Does Nokia Do This to Itself?

Symbian Woes Continue as Update Fails to Reach the Faithful

This morning should have been a joyous occasion for Nokia. After toiling for months to drag Symbian kicking and screaming into the modern smartphone era, it made the Anna release of its mobile platform available to N8, C7 and C6-01 users.

I fired up my N8 and selected the software upgrade option only to be told that there were no updates available. Having looked more closely at the related press announcements, I realised that in the UK and Germany it wasn’t possible to upgrade over the air. Operators in those markets didn’t want a large update being pushed over their networks, presumably for capacity or cost reasons, although why they felt that was necessary for a 27MB file is beyond me.

Nokia had agreed to make the update only available through Ovi Suite in the UK and Germany. This meant that people had to use a PC to access the update. A small inconvenience, but fair enough.

However, it seems Nokia has learnt no lessons from the Ovi Store debacle in May 2009. Once again, the company’s servers appear to have buckled under the strain, leaving most of those who tried to upgrade disappointed.

This must be a pretty galling experience for Nokia. These problems are partly a result of Symbian’s popularity. Even though it’s on the wane, Symbian powers a huge number of devices in Europe and there’s still massive interest in new developments. This morning “Symbian Anna” was trending on Twitter, even if many Twitter users probably thought she was Justin Bieber’s new girlfriend.

So, rather than delighting the customers in Europe’s two biggest markets who have persevered and remained loyal to Symbian, Nokia has once again left them disappointed, if only for a day or so.

Nokia already has a dismal reputation when it comes to software and this does nothing to dispel that idea. I’ve seen suggestions by some conspiracy theorists that the latest debacle is a further attempt by Nokia’s new management team to put the final nail in Symbian’s coffin. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Anna update (when you can get it) is proof that Nokia is more committed to Symbian now than for some time.

In the interests of balance, I should point out that firmware upgrades are a source of pain to most mobile phone-makers. Microsoft made a mess of the first upgrade to Windows Phone 7, and Android updates regularly attract complaints, although these are usually confined to operator variants and delays in obtaining approval.

But there can be no excuses. Nokia should know better and people should be held to account for what’s happened today. If the company is serious about rebuilding its credibility in the smartphone market, Nokia has to get things like this right first time, every time. If it doesn’t, it’s merely increasing the size of the mountain it has to climb.