NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's hard enough to turn around the fortunes of a company when it seems that rivals are flawlessly executing their missions while securing more market share. But what does that say when a company can't seem to catch a break even as the competition is fumbling the ball?This is the question that Nokia ( NOK) investors should be asking. But since they haven't, I've taken it upon myself to press the issue on their behalf. That Nokia still enjoys unmitigated loyalty from investors has been a great source of aggravation for me, especially when trying to grade the performance of the company's CEO, Stephen Elop.
Elop Was Not the Savior He Believed He WasThe argument in Elop's favor that has been constant among Nokia loyalists is that the company still has "a decent chunk" of the overall phone market. But what exactly does that mean? Speaking of bad CEOs; both Dell ( DELL) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) still have "decent chunks" of the overall PC business. But Dell wants to plant its face into the ground, while HP is not expected to show any growth until 2014. The similarities with Nokia is that Dell and H-P have been hemorrhaging market share for years. The difference is that Elop has made Nokia's situation much worse than when he was handed over the keys. Did Nokia have underlying fundamental struggles? Absolutely. The company's Symbian mobile operating system was uninspiring and posed no threat to (at the time) BlackBerry ( BBRY) and Motorola. So I'm not debating the fact that Elop's predecessor, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, didn't deserve to be fired. But it's incorrect to suggest that Nokia (although on the decline) was already dead when Elop took over. But that didn't stop Elop from speaking as if he was the savior. When he first took the podium at his press conference, he said: "My job is to take the organization through a period of disruption and ensure that we are meeting the needs of customers while delivering superior financial results."
While that statement is pretty much a carbon copy of what every new leader says, I took issue with the fact that Elop wasted no time throwing is predecessor under the bus by criticizing how the company was "painted into a corner." Today, Nokia is not exactly a work of art, either. And speaking of claustrophobia, Elop's biggest gaffe has been his regrettable decision to tie Nokia's fortunes to the fate of Microsoft ( MSFT), which at the time had its own battles with execution.