Nokia, Pots, and Teakettles

So Nokia wakes up one day and decides that it is tired of having to make royalty payments to Qualcomm.

Not content to roll up sleeves and sit at the negotiating table, or even to slug it out in court with a battery of countersuits, Nokia has now embarked on a global communications campaign to vilify Qualcomm by suggesting that the San Diego tech firm is, by its actions, slowing the adoption of 3G.

Carriers have made billions of dollars in investments in 3G licenses and gear, and Nokia’s CTO, Tero Ojanpera appears to be trying to drum up a groundswell of sentiment from around the industry to force Qualcomm to give in to Nokia’s royalty demands and to stop defending its intellectual property. Ojanpera was playing to a receptive crowd – Qualcomm has been the punching bag of Korea’s techno-nationalists for years.

As a communicator, I give Nokia credit for trying to sow a meme that would get Qualcomm convicted in the court of public opinion. If it had worked, it may well have pushed Qualcomm into a corner and helped Nokia win its cases.

Unfortunately for the Nokians, in this industry, memories aren’t that short. Too many of us remember how Nokia handled CDMA. First, they ignored it. When they couldn’t ignore it, they ridiculed it. When they found they had to adopt it for 3G, they struggled for two years to figure out how to make it work because they wouldn’t ask Qualcomm for assistance. Now that they’re in the 3G market and paying royalties, they appear to be trying to cripple – if not squash – Qualcomm for being right in the first place. Remember, if you will, that Qualcomm is NOT a competitor – it is merely an upstream technology provider. A vendor.

Open note to Nokia. Look, guys, I know it really bruises the ego to realize that despite all of the handsets you sell, you are nowhere near as strong on technology or design as you would like us to think you are. But lighten up a little. Be grateful to the folks who invented all this stuff so you could find ways to package it, market it, and sell it. Stop trying to pretend that you are the font of all good things in the mobile communications industry. Be a little more of a partner and a little less a wanna-be Vainamoinen. You may well find out that the goodwill it earns you will help out in the long run.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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