Shakedown

In some respects, having taken the decision to leap from the burning platform, Nokia’s decision to climb in the Windows lifeboat and ignore the Android one looks like an obvious one. Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, after all, is ex-Microsoft, and already this morning, I’ve seen the phrase “arranged marriage” used to describe the partnership.

Looked at from another angle though, it could be seen as quite a brave move, or a foolish one. Every analyst in the world right now seems to be churning out stats showing the inexorable rise of Android, so that must have been an option for Elop. Windows Phone 7, it’s true, has had some rave reviews, and not just from Stephen Fry. But Microsoft’s track record in the mobile phone business is hardly a glittering one, and it’s too early yet to say whether Microsoft’s latest mobile OS will pose a serious threat to Apple and Google.

Perhaps the most telling quote was Elop’s contention that: “This is now a three-horse race”. Over the last 12 months, a consensus seems to have emerged that fragmentation is just a fact of life in the mobile world, so much so that well-informed commentators argue we should just all get used to it, because it isn’t going away. Personally, I’ve always thought there’s a limit to the number of competing, non-compatible platforms one ecosystem can sustain, and that the mobile world will go the way of the PC world and shake down into two or three. Today’s announcement makes that more likely (though don’t forget RIM). Whether even the combined might of Microsoft and Nokia can put a dent in Apple or Google’s plans for world domination, however, remains to be seen.

David Murphy

Editor

 

Update:
This just in from Christian Lindholm, partner and director at Fjord, who worked in design management at Nokia for 10 years, and who played an instrumental role in the development of Nokia Maps. Fjord has also worked on two separate projects for Windows 7 around Flickr and Foursquare.

Lindholm says: “This will be a considerable relief for all developers, as it will answer the question which is the third platform to expand to. We have had this question multiple times in the past months, and there has not been a clear answer. Now it is clear, it is Windows. The developer angle is incredibly important and the big guys have made life much more simple for developers, and that is what matters. Only if these giants serve the developer community, they will get a chance to prosper themselves. The game has changed.”

And this from Forrester research analyst, Ian Fogg:

“Nokias strategic choice to place its smartphone bet on the Microsoft Windows Phone platform is the least bad option that the company had. It could not succeed with Symbian nor could it differentiate itself in the market using the Android platform. The main challenge Nokia faces is in the execution of this strategy to differentiate itself using Windows Phone –  both against the Apple and Android juggernauts, and against competitors like Samsung and HTC who have committed to Microsofts platform. The long term success of this partnership will rest on the companies ability to bring a portfolio of smartphone products to the market quickly, without which Windows Phone 7 may be rendered irrelevant by its competing platforms. Also, the companies must convince developers to raise the priority of Windows Phone as they bring innovative products to market.”