More than seven years before Apple Inc. rolled out the iPhone, the Nokia team showed a phone with a color touch screen set above a single button. The device was shown locating a restaurant, playing a racing game and ordering lipstick. In the late 1990s, Nokia secretly developed another alluring product: a tablet computer with a wireless connection and touch screen—all features today of the hot-selling Apple iPad.
“Oh my God,” Mr. Nuovo says as he clicks through his old slides. “We had it completely nailed.”
This is why it doesn’t matter how much money you put into research and development. You have to have vision to make it work. The management at Apple saw the touchscreen phone and made it a reality. The folks at Nokia shelved it.
“You were spending more time fighting politics than doing design,” said Alastair Curtis, Nokia’s chief designer from 2006 to 2009. The organizational structure was so convoluted, he added, that “it was hard for the team to drive through a coherent, consistent, beautiful experience.”
“Fighting politics” sounds a lot like Microsoft – the company that Nokia has put all its faith into by adopting the Windows Phone OS for its smartphones. Nokia now relies on Microsoft for survival, which is a real bad position to be in.