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Will 'burning platform' Nokia axe Symbian, use Android and ditch Ovi?

Nokia's new CEO has warned the company that it's "standing on a burning platform", according to a supposedly leaked memo. But just how far is he willing to jump?

Nokia's new CEO, Stephen Elop, has opened fire on his own company in a roasting-hot leaked memo entitled "Standing on a burning platform", in which he bemoans Nokia's perilous position, its market share under siege from Apple, Android and cheap Chinese phone makers.

Published by Engadget and confirmed by multiple sources, including BBC News (despite some scepticism online), the internal memo tells a parable of a man forced to choose between a burning oil rig and the cold dark ocean. It acknowledges that Google "has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry's innovation to its core", with Nokia facing an opportunity to "take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future".

Elop will be pounding the podium this Friday in London at the company's strategy and financial briefing. But with the company struggling to hold on to its massive market share, will it make an Earth-shattering announcement on the scale of that time it threw over making rubber boots in favour of mobile phones?

We've taken a gander at the latest rumours and laid down our judgement.  

Rumour: Nokia will switch to Android or Windows Phone 7

Elop initially set tongues wagging with his comments last month in a conference call with Nokia investors.

"We must build, catalyse or join a competitive ecosystem. The ecosystem approach we select must be comprehensive and cover a wide range of utilities and services that customers expect today and anticipate in the future," Elop said.

The statement set off the rumour mill like a particularly sprightly donkey. Analysts have speculated that the Finnish funsters could be contemplating an Android phone or a Windows Phone 7 phone, in a bid to keep its grip on the high-end smart phone market.

Embracing either Android or WinPhoSev would signal a separation from Nokia's previous strategy of owning the software, hardware and services in its phones. And the high minimum specs required for WinPho would prevent it leaking down to Nokia's lucrative entry-level smart phones.

We think Nokia is more likely to renew its dedication to MeeGo -- a new smart phone OS being built with Intel. A new approach to the platform could be the "build or catalyse" that Elop has hinted at.

MeeGo could arrive on the upcoming Nokia N9, which may also showcase Intel's efforts to break into mobile phone processors.

Likelihood: Pigs might fly 4/10

Rumour: Nokia will axe Symbian

Disappointment over the Nokia N97 and N8 has taken the bloom of the Symbian rose. That led to an exodus of other manufacturers from Nokia's favourite operating system, leaving it to gather Symbian back into the Nokia fold. As Elop points out in his memo, in double-quick time Android has overtaken RIM to nip at Symbian's status as the world's favourite smart phone operating system. "Unbelievable," he writes.

But Nokia is still selling phones like an ice-cream vendor on a desert island. According to the analyst Gartner, in the first quarter of last year, it sold a staggering 110 million phones; over a third of all the phones sold worldwide.

You can't underestimate the power of the world market, either. The Nokia 1001, a simple phone even when it was released in 2003, is the best-selling mobile phone of all time, according to Reuters.

MeeGo is too young to fight down in the low-end trenches, and Nokia is unlikely to want to tangle with the cheap Android heavyweights such as Huawei and ZTE. Symbian is the beaten, bruised, but ultimately victorious hero of the smart-phone army's march into the developing world.

Unsurprisingly, howver, Nokia has no wish to wallow around in the bargain basement while losing its membership to the penthouse suite. It will continue to brag about being the world's biggest mobile phone maker, but we don't think it will be happy until it's on top again in the Western markets.

Likelihood: Snowball's chance in hell 2/10 

Rumour: Nokia will relocate to the USA

Elop is Nokia's first non-Finnish CEO, and according to The Register, the Canadian may have a hankering for an office closer to home. But not that close -- perhaps due to a secret maple-syrup phobia, perhaps not -- so rumour has it he's considering moving Nokia's head office to America.

Nokia has been chilling in Espoo, Finland since the 80s, but it employs almost 36,000 people in 16 countries. Moving a few suits to the US wouldn't cost a fortune, but it could help Nokia escape the bureaucratic bog that has stymied its attempts to reform the company.

Elop is also expected to lay off half his executive board, de-Finnistrating Nokia at the top. That will open the door for a group of fat cats who aren't keen on losing their tans by moving to Finland, despite its excellent ice hockey and cloudberry liqueur.

Nevertheless, a physical move to the US seems less important than a psychological move to being the underdog, rather than the big dog.

Likelihood: Neither here nor there 5/10

Rumour: Ovi services will get the chop

Ovi. Even the name inspires confusion. Is there a little homunculus growing in Nokia's undefinable suite of cloud-based services, or is it just a curate's egg?

We kindly told Nokia how to fix the Ovi Store, but it still languishes in the land of losers. And the rest of Ovi, from photos to the address book, is worse than useless for most of us. 

Ovi Maps is cool, especially since you don't need a data connection to use it. It's also pretty fresh, having only recently been aquired by Nokia from its former life as Navteq.

Nokia has already run Ovi Music Unlimited through the chipper. We wouldn't be surprised if its takes a weed whacker to the rest of the Ovi Services for a spring clean, leaving Maps alone and tarting up the Store to entice developers and shoppers.

Likelihood: Snowball's chance in Scotland 8/10

So, will you take our odds, or do you have more faith in Nokia's ability to shock us? Are you ready for a Windows Phone 7 Nokia to take over the American market? Or are you smugly petting your Nokia 1001, secure in the knowledge that phones never got better? We're meeting Nokia on Friday for a one-on-one discussion laying bare the company's future, so keep it Crave for all the details.