When in doubt, blame someone else. Alexander Stubb, the Finnish prime minister, said today that Apple was responsible for bringing down two of Finland’s biggest economic exports — Nokia and paper. “The iPhone killed Nokia and the iPad killed the paper industry, but we’ll make a comeback,” he said earlier today in an interview with CNBC.
It’s not the first time that he’s set up Apple as the shorthand scapegoat for the country’s problems — Stubb made similar, pithy comments back in July when he said that “Steve Jobs took our jobs.”
The comments come at a time when Finland has been downgraded by ratings agency S&P. It’s now at AA+ from AAA. The big question now for Stubb and the industries impacted is how to demonstrate to investors and lenders that its businesses are not stagnating.
Inaccurate swipes harkening back to past events really screams strong leadership to me.
Ironically, it seems that Finland’s businesses are trying to do the opposite, as pointed out by Stubb in further elaboration.* “We have two industrial problems, champions that went down in Finland,” he noted today. “One was Nokia and the ICT sector and the other was forest and the paper industry.” Stubb went on to say that advances in bio energy and other areas are helping the forestry industry bounce back, and that the new Nokia Networks — formed after Microsoft acquired Nokia’s devices and services division for over $7 billion — is now rebuilding itself.
“Usually what happens is that when you have dire times you get a lot of innovation and I think from the public sector our job is to create the platform for it,” Stubb said.
Back to his initial comments, while coming up with a decent soundbite is not an uncommon goal for politicians and their spin doctors, citing Apple for past problems is lame and weak-looking.
Android, and Android handset makers like Samsung, were by far the bigger threat to Nokia’s dominant position as the world’s biggest handset maker. Samsung eventually overtook Nokia for pole position in 2012.
Moreover, Apple has actually been paying Nokia money for years now, under IP licensing agreements. The exact amount of those payments has never been disclosed, but in 2013, when Nokia was still a single company, its then-CEO Stephen Elop said that the company would make more than $650 million in patent licensing deals that year from the likes of Apple and others.
Since Apple is licensing Nokia-created patents for its technology, you could even argue that Nokia was partly responsible for its own decline. (And that’s before considering the other warning signs that Nokia saw but seemed unable to address.)
The impact of the iPad on paper production is even more bizarre. Economists have been charting the decline of the industry for nearly 30 years already. On the other hand, we are only on track for shipments of some 200 million tablets globally this year — a decent increase but nothing near critical mass when you consider that the worldwide population is now over 7 billion.
* Update: Some Finnish people have contacted me not happy with this story, with one noting he’s actually an Apple fan. Not contesting this, and even point out one of his other points above. This story is about his comments in a recent appearance, however, where he doesn’t elaborate on whatever the bigger picture is for him.