What if you could go back in time and beat Apple to market with an iPhone device. Would you do it? Every smartphone maker on the planet would say 'yes,' including Nokia, which would probably like to take a mulligan on saying 'no' when it had the chance.
According to a fascinating report in The New York Times, research engineers at Nokia prepped a prototype of an Internet-ready, touchscreen handset with a big display a few years before Apple launched its iPhone. Who knows if it would have been a success, because management killed the project on fears that it would flop and cost the company too much money, claims former employee Ari Hakkarainen.
"It was very early days, and no one really knew anything about the touchscreen's potential," Hakkarainen said. "And it was an expensive device to produce, so there was more risk involved for Nokia. So management did the usual. They killed it."
During that same year (2004), Nokia also rejected an early design for an online app store, another decision that ultimately hurt Nokia in the long run. Fast forward to today and Nokia is playing catch up, not just with Apple, but with every major player in the smartphone market.
"I am sure there are things we could have done better and innovations we missed," said Arja Souminen, a spokeswoman for Nokia. "But that happens to all companies. We have been very successful with some other innovations."