Nokia and Microsoft announced a massive partnership today that would put the Windows Phone operating system into the hands of the world’s biggest handset manufacturer. This is big news with ramifications for both tech giants, as well as the cellular ecosystem as a whole, and leaves a lot of questions. Is Windows Phone mature enough to support the Nokia industrial machine, let alone save them from dwindling relevance in smartphones? Will Nokia catapult Windows Phone to being a force to be reckoned with in the smartphone OS wars? How many Symbian diehards will Nokia be leaving in the cold, and pushed to the more tweak-friendly Android? Our editors are taking a stab at answering these and other questions surrounding the biggest partnership in mobile tech within recent memory.
The deal strikes me as a big win for Microsoft who is still getting Windows Phone off the ground. They’ve got decent partnerships with manufacturers like LG, HTC, and Samsung, but Nokia is the big fish, and it sounds to me like they’ll be using Windows exclusively for smartphones. It’s still unclear to me if Symbian will stick around to handle feature phones, since the press release said that Nokia would try to bring Windows Phone to a wider range of price points, but if Nokia is focusing all of their energies on Windows Phone from here on in, the platform will quickly become a big part of the mobile picture.
It’s smart that Nokia made the switch before they completely lost their position of advantage to Google and other competitors, but I’m still dubious about such a young OS being crammed into a development cycle built around something fully-matured and familiar to the people making the phones. I expect there will be a lot of personnel fallout as a result of such a massive gear shift; we’re already seeing one Microsoft vet taking the reins for Nokia in North America.
Even if the app selection on upcoming Nokia Windows phones isn’t quite comparable to Android and iPhone, I do like the idea of a handset that takes killer pictures and talks seamlessly with my Xbox and PC, and something tells me most other North Americans do too.
This Microsoft and Nokia deal comes as no surprise. When Stephen Elop became the new CEO of Nokia back in September 2010 many questioned whether his past relations with the personal computer and office productivity giant would somehow be used to turn Nokia into just another firm pumping out Windows Phones. This decision is difficult to analyze for two reasons. First, Windows Phone is still a relativly new operating system. Second, we don’t know how many people Elop plans to fire and from which divisions.
If Nokia lets Microsoft handle everything, from creating, maintaining, and updating the OS, to the services that come bundled with the OS, then Nokia has just declared that they’ve become HTC, albeit with Nordic roots. Nokia says they’ll sell 150 million more Symbian devices before killing the platform. Considering they sold over 100 million Symbian devices in 2010 then that means 2012 will be the end of life for the platform that many have been wanting to kill off since Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone in the summer of 2007. MeeGo … what’s there to say? It remains a secret platform and Nokia will likely kill it too with time.
Even though the Nokia Windows Phone 7 hookup has been heavily rumored over the last week or so, it was still shocking to see it finally go through. Nokia no longer controls its own destiny on the software side but that may not be such a bad thing. Nokia still knows how to make some kick-ass hardware, as the N8 was a specs-filled beast. The problem has always been the out-of-date user experience and Windows Phone 7 should solve that nicely. I don’t think Microsoft’s smartphone platform is a perfect one but it is built on a solid foundation and will only get better from here.
Microsoft is also benefiting too, as having the world’s largest handset maker is definitely a boost for the platform. Don’t sleep on what Nokia is bringing to the software side either, as Windows Phone 7 will benefit from getting Nokia Maps. Nokia Maps is probably a half-tick behind Google Maps in terms of functionality, but it is still darn good.
It looks like a win-win-win: Nokia gets its much-needed platform, Microsoft gets a major supporter of WIndows Phone 7 and consumers get more competition.
Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft isn’t a huge surprise given its new CEO’s history. A few days ago, Stephen Elop sent a fiery letter to his employees stating that Nokia was standing on a “burning platform.” If that wasn’t a sign that he’d want to get rid of Symbian and swap it with Windows Phone 7, I don’t know what is. The only question is whether this is a smart move. Clearly, Symbian was taking Nokia nowhere, and it was difficult to determine when MeeGo would be ready for the masses. Adopting Android was already ruled out last year with the whole piss-in-your-pants joke by Vanjoki, but picking up a platform in its infancy is definitely going to be a huge gamble. I’m not sure how I feel about this one just yet.
Nokia’s been in a bad way with Symbian for the last few years, so today’s announcement of a Microsoft partnership to bring Windows Phone 7 to Nokia hardware is a good sign for the Finnish mobile phone giant. Nokia has the distribution and R&D resources to bang out some innovative WP7 hardware, and Microsoft has the cachet in the US that Nokia needs to get their phones into Americans’ pockets. Nokia has always had a strong GPS mapping service, and they’ll be bringing that expertise to Windows Phone 7, which will likely prove to be a boon for Microsoft and WP7 end-users in the long run.
Will Windows Phone 7-powered Nokia phones to be able to take on the iPhone (iOS) and Android platforms? Time will tell. At least Nokia is on the right track this time.
Nokia and Microsoft announced today that Nokia will drop Symbian on its smartphone lineup and replace it with Windows Phone. As a long-time Windows Mobile and Windows Phone user, I could not be more delighted for Microsoft. It gives the Redmond company an in-road into the European Market and an excellent hardware platform on which to build its mobile OS. While on paper the joint venture looks promising, I am not sure Microsoft or Nokia has the fast-moving innovation required to compete with Android and iOS. Only time will tell if the two companies can forget the mistakes of the past and jump head first into the future of mobile computing.
What do you guys think of the announcement? It’s pretty crazy, eh? Will Microsoft and Nokia save each other?
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