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What Nokia did next

February 11, 2011

I wrote several several months ago (What's up at Nokia) about the problems Europe's largest mobile manufacturer was having, and today Nokia announced what it is going to do. To see what this might mean for mobile services and devices, look through my musings below.

Firstly, here is the detail on what Nokia has announced today.

Nokia has scrapped it's own smartphone strategy, and "will adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy". This seems, at first, a really strange choice. Microsoft rigidly controls the look and feel of not only the experience on it's handsets, but the physical design of those handsets too. For a company that used to produce innovative, must-have mobile phones, this seems odd.

"Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone" but only by providing "hardware design" and "language support". For the emerging mobile computer and smartphone markets, this means Nokia will no longer be in charge of it's own destiny as it will be relying on a traditionally closed and monopolistic partner. In an era where it's cheap and easy to do anything, and the key difference is the experience, being able to build something different is important. Nokia's recent attempts at doing this have generally been poorly perceived, however, and even the PC software that ships with their phones has been badly designed.

"Nokia’s content and application store will be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace" while "Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services". This marks the end of Nokia's attempt to reposition itself as a Google-esque internet services firm, under the 'Ovi' brand that cropped up on some handsets over the last few years. Nokia spent a small fortune to buy mapping data and application firm NavTeq, something Microsoft will certainly make use of in it's Binq search engine and Windows Mobile mobile phones.

Funding and status for Nokia's new smartphone operating system, MeeGo, has been slashed and the man in charge of it has moved on. Microsoft has traditionally not liked having to compete in the operating system market, so paying a few hundreds of millions to get rid of Nokia's influence in that area is cheap, they no doubt feel.

It's a bold move for Nokia, but what does all this mean for the mobile experience ? It may be too early to tell, but here's my take.

Android-based devices will continue their meteoric rise thanks to a variety of hardware partners like LG and Samsung shipping many different designs of phones based on Google's operating system. IPhone will remain important and may see some further steady growth, however Apple's determination to lock users in to iTunes and Mac desktop machines will make swapping to or from these difficult, slowing take up (and of course, slowing churn !). WP7 will have some success, but ultimately will become a 'me to' mobile operating system. As Nokia admit, MeeGo is no more than a research project now, though it will appear in their N9 handset later this year, it's difficult to see it being any more successful than the N900 (which came with MeeGo's predecessor, Maemo). It's fate will match Samsung's new Bada platform - a nice niche.

So, while there is news, and Nokia does at least now have a plan, it's not going to change to mobile landscape. Yet. Probably.

Posted by Tom Chiverton

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