It’s the news we knew was coming. Nokia and Microsoft’s “strategic alliance”, will see Windows Phone 7 serve as Nokia's "primary smartphone platform” and ostensibly push Symbian and MeeGo out of the limelight. But has Nokia made the right call in reaching out to Microsoft? And is this really the tie-up Microsoft needs to ensure its sleek, but slow-selling OS can go toe-to-toe with Android and Apple?
Let’s not be too harsh. Windows Phone 7 is a gorgeous, well-tuned OS, which has won over developers and has plenty of potential. The key though, is in the latter. This is not a finished ecosystem by any stretch, hence Microsoft hoping that by hitching itself to Nokia it will get the hardware presence it feels it has lacked so far.
That’s harsh on HTC and LG, both of which have produced sharp and well-designed phones using the Microsoft OS. But this partnership is really about Nokia. When the official word arrived that Nokia and the Big M were getting it on, the reaction was muted to say the least. Shares in Nokia dropped ten per cent in Helsinki and Twitter was alive with tech experts claiming this was a hook-up between two dinosaurs of the tech world, both of whom have failed to recapture past glories while Apple and Google make hay.
That’s not to say Nokia isn’t smart in leaving Symbian and MeeGo to one side. WP7 is a worthwhile investment, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s simply putting all its eggs in one basket with Microsoft. Far better surely is the platform agnostic approach of Samsung, HTC and LG, all of whom have enjoyed record growth in the smartphone sector.
Nokia would have done well to join forces with Google as well as Microsoft. Its love of making a wide variety of phones to suit varying tastes would have been well served by Android and the possibilities would have been endless. But such a deal now looks hugely unlikely, especially after one Google exec dismissed today’s tech marriage as that of “two turkeys”.
Nokia fans on its official Conversations blog were unimpressed too, largely because the Finns will be starting from a low base with Windows Phone 7. It will have to build a niche quickly. Indeed, one of the key planks of the deal, according to the official joint statement, is that action must be swift. Nokia is already working on a WP7 phone according to Steve Ballmer, and if it wants to compete, it’ll have to be on shelves imminently. No more trailing devices for months, as with the N8 and E7.
Will the deal work? It’s hard to say. Stephen Elop has taken a massive gamble, but there’s no denying Nokia’s previous strategy of talking up Symbian while it died a death needed to change. But in taking a blinkered, Microsoft-only approach, there’s every chance that Nokia will be struggling to see off Android and Apple for many years to come.