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Tim Green: my naked spanking at the hands of senior Nokia execs

Tim Green: my naked spanking at the hands of senior Nokia execs
Tim Green

by

Devices / May 1st 2014 at 12:56PM

And they were naked too. Will this sort of thing happen now MS is in charge?

Last week an unremarkable press release popped into my inbox. It was all couched in legal speak, but the essential gist was this.

Microsoft now owns Nokia.

We knew it was coming. MS had declared its intention to buy last year. And conspiracy theorists continue to suggest that the takeover was hatched in 2011 – when Stephen Elop took charge of Nokia and turned it from an independent entity into a Windows OEM.

Whatever the truth, and notwithstanding the inevitability, this was amazing news.

When we launched ME in 2005 Nokia was in total control of the mobile hardware market. And the firm was very good with journalists.

Frankly, we were spoiled by the Nokians – taken to exotic locations, fed and watered. But they were never heavy-handed or controlling about what we wrote.

My favourite trip was probably the one to Helsinki for the launch of the N-Gage QD – the unsuccessful follow up to the much-mocked original N-Gage (the QD acronym didn’t stand for anything, though ‘quite disappointing’ was tossed around a lot).

Nokia showed us the device then took us to the snowy outskirts of the city, where our coach was hijacked by actors who then treated us to staged fighting and even some cannon fire. It was all designed to promote Nokia’s in-house QD game Pathway To Glory.

Anyway after these over-the-top and frankly mystifying military manoeuvres we were asked if we wanted to drink vodka straight away or go for a sauna.

Not being a big drinker and always keen to sample local culture, I opted for the latter.

I was the only one.

All of a sudden I was on a snowmobile racing across the fields. Ten minutes later I arrived at a lake to be greeted by four Nokians in the process of taking their trousers off.

Two minutes after that, I was naked in a steam-filled hut with these same guys, whom I had exchanged business cards with just hours before.

One of them leant over and asked kindly: “do you want me to hit you with these birch twigs?’

It seemed rude to decline. It wasn’t painful.

Later we did drink vodka. Rather a lot of it. And I recall the radical change of character in the Finns as the drink took hold. These mild-mannered men and women, with their gentle sardonic humour – well, they got proper lary.

As the bus arrived back at the hotel, one charming senior exec rose from his seat and screamed at the group. “Who’s up for drinking some more, and who’s just Swedish?”

There seemed to be genuine contempt in his face.

For the Brits on the bus, it was all rather reassuring. Binge drinking, aggression, an undercurrent of racism? Like chucking-out time at home.

The QD was a failure, but Nokia shrugged it off. Between 2003 and 2008 the company was so confident it could try anything. Some of the phones launched during that time were jaw dropping, even if they were ultimately terrible.

There was the 7380 ‘lipstick’ phone, which had no keypad. A series of twists dialled a number. The 7600 ‘teardrop’ did at least have numbers, but they were spread awkwardly around the outside of the phone.

Other phones innovated around function. God, the hours I spent writing about the N92 ‘TV’ phone with DVB-H built in. Or the N93 camcorder/phone hybrid. Or the clam shaped 7700 Visual Radio device.

Nokia could afford to mess around like this because it had sold 250m 1100s, 160m 3310s and 150m 6600s (remember that one?).

And then there was the N95 – the ‘multimedia computer’ that took the smartphone into the mainstream. We all had one. What’s amazing now is to note that the N95 came out three months before the iPhone.

You’d think it was years earlier, and its popularity just shows that the iPhone’s impact (sales wise at least) was far from instant.

But the iPhone did kill Nokia in the end. And this leads me to recall a second Nokia event in 2010, so different from the supremely confident QD unveiling six years earlier.

This was at MWC, where Nokia had opted to locate itself outside the main exhibition space. We were invited to a major announcement, and expected some big big news. I got there 20 mins early and there were queues down the street.

It turned out even pre-registered attendees still needed copious checks before being allowed in. No one was prepared to change the rules, so the press conference remained half-empty and hundreds of us had to watch the announcement on a TV screen in a packed entrance hall.

When the news came it was Meego – a new OS Nokia and Intel had dreamed up. Meego was an admission that Symbian couldn’t compete. But, no, we couldn’t see any devices, because there weren’t any yet.

The whole thing was so depressing. Anyone can mess up the organisation of an event – and so what if a few journos have to stand for a bit – but it just seemed to reflect Nokia’s battered confidence.

Within a year, Nokia would be back in the MWC halls with Stephen Elop in charge and Windows coming to its handsets. Meego would deliver one device, the N9, which was dribbled out like a criminal and buried in short order.

Now, Nokia's future is set. It's just another American tech company, with much of its Finnish heritage removed.

That's a shame. 

I wonder if naked spankings will ever take place again? I do hope so, and I suppose it's just possible.

Though I expect there will be naked lawyers present just in case.