Life

TV review: Nokia is the story of why capitalism works

Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington Bureau Chief, and Bill Hamilton, Washington Editor at a New York Times news conference - (C) Aletheia Films
Billy Foley

The Rise and Fall of Nokia, BBC 4, Tuesday at 9pm

The story of Nokia is the story of the success of capitalism.

For 14 years the Finnish company was the number one mobile phone maker in the world, dominating the market with the quality of its phones and the power of its marketing.

Nokia practically invented the mobile phone and managed to make something for £100 that everyone in the world wanted.

At its height, Nokia’s budget was greater than the Finnish government and it employed more than 35,000 people.

Until 2012 it hung on to its position as market number one but two years ago it gave up the fight (after many relaunches) and left the mobile market, selling what was left to Microsoft.

So what went wrong?

The Rise and Fall of Nokia suggests the rot set in when greed took over at the height of their success.

This fascinating documentary - almost exclusively in Finnish with English subtitles - heard from many workers who spoke of their resentment when senior managers got share options and became millionaires overnight.

The team ethos was beginning to break down and poor products were presented to the market.

One former engineer laughed as he recalled a mobile device which came with a stylus but also had buttons which did nothing. "Clearly people weren't talking to each other," he said.

The critical blow, although they didn't know it at the time, was the launch of the Apple iPhone in January 2007.

Apple introduced the touch screen and the smartphone was born.

The Nokia executives recalled where they were when the iPhone launched. One told how he was immediately ordered home from London and a product designer said he got an email demanding an “iPhone killer” Nokia product for 2008.

It wasn’t to be. Nokia noted that Apple had compromised on battery life (remember when a phone would hold a charge for a week?) and durability (we accept now that phones will smash if dropped), but consumers didn’t care, they wanted an iPhone.

However sad it was for Nokia, its employees and the Finnish town of Salo where it was based, the market worked.

Consumers chose the product they wanted and the “hubris” of Nokia was rewarded with destruction.

It may happen to Apple one day.

***

Reporting Trump’s First Year: The Fourth Estate, BBC 2, Sunday at 9pm

You’d think a behind the scenes look inside a newspaper office in direct confrontation with the most extreme of US presidents would be sensational.

Nope, not a bit of it.

Somehow the inside story of the New York Times and the feud with Donald Trump was dull.

Now there maybe valid reasons for this – experienced journalists are going to be very cautious about what they say to camera or are recorded as saying in meetings or on the phone.

And the business of putting together a daily newspaper and various digital products as comprehensive as the New York Times doesn’t leave a lot of time for levity.

But this week’s edition – episode three of a four part series – left us with few insights other than the challenge of running a “paper of record” and controlling staff output on the often frivolous Twitter.

White House Correspondent Glenn Thrush has to leave the social media network after repeatedly breaching guidance from senior management to avoid being dragged into Twitter spats by responding to Trump’s tweets.

Nonetheless, the fly-on the-wall documentary is a clever bit of PR for the Times at a time when the challenge from Trump is a gift to the struggling newspaper business.

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