Nokia is a interesting company to study, especially when u are looking from an engineering perspective. It has the best engineer team, which lead to the success of Nokia at 199x, but it failed to adapt to the new era and decline.
I think the decline is due to the company can no longer blend tech and business well, given the explosive growth of business.
(Below is bit technical, but it supports my view of the conflict between tech and business)
Nokia’s management heavily invest in R&D, one of the key research area is embedded Linux, which is another stream outside the Symbian OS. It has the concept of App, but the App is hard to code. The App is written on C++ and use Qt as the UI library. It is really a natural choice because this couple has been around with Linux since day 1. The hurdle for writing App is the exceptionally low computational power (<100Mhz). exactly the same like today programmers, learning Java is easy, learning GOOD Java is hard.
Furthermore, it seems Nokia business side doesn’t want to promote the embedded Linux concept, every one heard the common models, 8810, 8850, N73, N95, 5800 and etc. But seems no one have seen Nokia Communicator or E90.
Later on, the industry come up with J2ME, which partially solve the hardware management issue, but still, very hard to code.
Having the app concept without a complete end-to-end use cases means no one will use app. Finding, buying, downloading and installing an app takes more than two hours. You cannot expect your grandma can do it on her own. That’s why I think App Store kills Nokia.
It simply lost the first mover advantage.
After that, there are two chances for Nokia to turn around, at least capture a decent portion in the market. The first one is launching Nokia 5800 Xpress Music in 2008 and the second one is choosing Windows, rather than Android.
Nokia 5800 was considered as a game changer, with a touch screen, on Symbian S60 V5, 3G network and driven by Music as opposed to iTunes that time. The key failure is using Resistive display (in contrast to capacitive display by iPhone 1G), which limit the usage with a Pen and no Multi-touch Gesture. The product is just a clone of iPhone features superficially, without knowing the key market value. It simply fails to blend tech and design and maximize their advantages. At the same time, other competitors start adapting Android at top tier phone which lag Nokia behind.
The second chance is terminating Symbian OS, and choosing M$ Windows instead of Android. I am not saying the Stephen Elop Trojan Horse(Smile) case, just the management fails to do the SWOT analysis well. Android must be a better choice given Nokia strong engineering team in embedded system, which is transitive to Android. Nokia also uses ARM chips since 5800. It is essentially asking a Java Developer to write a C# program from scratch, it simply gives up all the know-how.
All in all, the success of Apple is not simply UI/UX, but the complete supply chain of App. Nokia failures is caused by failure to understand the market.
PS. I am looking at Nokia 8 recently, even though it is not the original Nokia, the minimal customization Android and steel body may make it a good choice for me.