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My thoughts on the Nokia-Microsoft partnership


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Yesterday, the cellular phone industry was given a pretty good shaking by the news that Nokia will be using Windows Phone 7 in the future as their main OS. Such an idea must have seemed absolute insane to many people, given the fact that Nokia has been running on the Symbian OS since kingdom come, with Meego on the horizon eventually offering a much more modern system. I should point out that the rumours had been swirling for some time, so to me it wasn’t such a shock. Symbian will still be around, but the reality is that the platform has been put out to pasture by this news.

Thanks to the iPhone and Android ecosystems, Nokia has been on a decline for years now. Build quality in phones started slipping. Symbian, which worked brilliantly in phones with keypads, suddenly couldn’t cope with being a touch driven interface. The fairly small and useful Nokia PC Suite got replaced by the bloated Ovi Suite software, making certain functions frustrating to achieve. Nokia realised that Symbian wasn’t working, so decided to merge their fledgling Maemo Linux OS with Moblin, forming the Meego project. Meego certainly looks interesting, but it wasn’t developing at the pace Nokia needed. Every passing week, more and more Android phones were being sold.

In the same boat, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS went down the toilet. While it offered a ton of features and functionality, the OS itself was littered with history and legacy. While a resistive touch screen and stylus can have pin point accuracy, it’s not a fun method of navigating a phone in this day and age. Microsoft was eventually forced to wake from its stupor by the rise of Android and iPhone, to the point where they developed the stunning ,if still a little rough, Windows Phone 7 OS.

I’ve been fascinated by the reactions on the internet to the news of the partnership. There appears to be a small group that is pretty happy at the news and are happy that Nokia will survive. A much larger percentage however is doing the typical internet reaction at some piece of news: frothing at the mouth, calling for boycotts, writing inflaming comments, predicting the doom of Nokia and Microsoft, demanding that Nokia adopt Android instead etc etc.…

Frankly, I think that if WP7 lets Nokia get back to working on their hardware, it will be a huge blessing. I was a major fan of Nokia in the past, but their build quality has slipped over the years. I’ve owned 3 Nokia phones, with the N80 being the worst of the lot. My dad has the N97, my mom the 5800 XpressMusic. The N97 seemed like a great phone to get him at the time, but it has had serious amounts of issues over the past 2 years. Phone freezing, GPS useless, other software issues all mostly ruined a potentially great phone. The 5800 is behaving better, but the build quality feels really cheap and plasticky sometimes.

In turn, Nokia adopting WP7 will allow Microsoft to compete in markets they currently only have a vague/no presence in, or to offer much more services due to Nokia already having billing services in place, approval from content regulators and so forth. If developers buy into the vision, they will be able to bring their apps from the Ovi Store into the Windows Phone Marketplace, an exciting Market that is growing at a stunning rate. Granted, applications will need to be ported or rewritten, but in turn developers will need to spend less time in the future expending effort to cover 4-5 platforms.

In the end, some Nokia diehards are never going to accept WP7 and will move onto other platforms. Some of the technorati are going to bash whatever comes out, without even trying the software and hardware. In my view, it may hurt now in the short term, but in the long run, Nokia and Microsoft stand to possibly reshape the mobile landscape. Google has already started the trash talk, perhaps a sign that it is worried. Time will tell how this entire partnership works out, but for my end, I’m excited at the news. WP7 just got the recognition it deserves, and things can only get more interesting from here on out.

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