Where you come down on the Microsoft and Nokia partnership largely depends on your interests, of course.
For Nokia’s Stephen Elop, a “relative unknown” and former head of Microsoft’s business software division, the partnership could save the day. The Finnish company is in a world of hurt and Elop made no bones about it, releasing a blistering internal memo that stated Nokia was “standing on a burning platform.” Elop’s plan to save the “burning platform” now appears to include the assistance of his former boss, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.
Nokia will be adopting Microsoft’s operating system and running it as its primary smart phone software, leaving Symbian to extinction and theoretically combating Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone. “It is now a three-horse race,” Mr. Elop said Friday.
With Nokia bunking in with Microsoft and adopting its O/S, that means that the Finnish company’s research and development is going to take a hit. And that means a significant round of layoffs in Finland, something the country’s economy minister has already been addressing. “This is the biggest structural reform which has ever impacted new technolody in Finland,” Mauri Pekkanen said.
The Finnish government wouldn’t say how many job cuts were in store, but the scale was said to be “significant.” The government is preparing to assist in those areas hardest hit by the layoffs.
1,000 employees at Nokia Corp. in Finland walked off the job on Friday over concerns raised by the partnership. The majority of these workers were said to be handling Symbian, so their job concerns clearly motivated the walk-0ut. With major cuts expected in their department, one can hardly blame them for taking their legally-entitled course of action. According to the Financial Post, more than 3,000 people the Finnish city of Tampere work for Nokia. Of those, about half are (or were) working on Symbian.
Shares in Nokia also dropped 14 percent on the day of the staff walk-out.
There are those who inevitably spin the Microsoft and Nokia partnership as a positive for both companies. Smart phone owners will doubtlessly benefit from Nokia phones having a more potent and current operating system. And Nokia may experience a longer term revival if the partnership pans out.
On the other hand, stripping out a significant component of workers in Finland’s technological sector is hard to spin as good news. The country will bear the brunt of these job losses, to be sure, but things may work out over the long haul. In the interim, however, it’s hard to ignore the difficulty these changes will put on many families.
Behind our operating systems, smart phones, tablets, and computers, there are human stories. Whether it’s the coltan we use in manufacturing or the workers we use to develop and maintain various operating systems, our toys and communications devices rely on the skills of workers the world over. The Nokia-Microsoft partnership is another instance of how our global community is ripe with opportunities and repercussions that extend far beyond the media spin.