Glass Half Full

I’ve just emerged from the press conference organised by Nokia to tell the world about its strategic alliance with Microsoft. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer joined Nokia CEO Stephen Elop on stage and both painted a picture of a world where their combined strengths will offer operators a real alternative to Apple and Android.

It was hard to cut through some of the language used in the Q&A, but if I heard it right, the Ovi brand will disappear, Nokia will pay a royalty to Microsoft for every Windows phone it ships (though perhaps not as much as other handset-makers), and the Finnish firm will shed a lot of jobs as it attempts to become more nimble and agile. Ballmer revealed during the Q&A that discussions between the two companies about a possible alliance only began in November last year. Ballmer admitted he was surprised at the speed at which Nokia reached its decision.

I asked Elop why Windows Phone, as opposed to Android. He said Nokia had had discussions with Google, but had backed away from the platform because of fears over commoditisation, and the fact that most of the value that Nokia might create would go to Google.

Of course, companies embarking on strategic alliances are always going to big themselves up. Elop talked about a combination of “iconic hardware and stellar software”. But no-one should underestimate the size of the task ahead for Nokia, or the risks involved in staking its future on a relatively unproven operating system.

Opening his presentation, Elop told delgates that as he was in London, he felt it was right to quote Winston Churchill, saying: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, and I am an optimist.”

Just as well.


David  Murphy