Surprised over Nokia's announcement that it'll be adopting Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone strategy? To be honest, if you've been following the news lately, this shouldn't be that much of a shock to you. The Nokia-Microsoft alliance has been hinted of since late last year, but with no substantial evidence to support it, the idea was mostly ignored and denied.
Over the course of the week, there was talk of a "burning platform" by Nokia's CEO, while rumors were rampant of Nokia's next generation mobile OS, MeeGo, being abandoned before launch.
And now, the burning questions have been answered. The open letter by the respective CEOs of Microsoft and Nokia have just confirmed the rumors – Nokia will be looking to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 as its mobile operating system (OS) of choice, leveraging the strengths of Nokia's hardware design and collaborate closely on development, with a joint marketing initiative and a shared development roadmaps. Resources will be shared amongst both companies. For example, Microsoft will tap into Nokia's strong presence in navigation services by integrating Microsoft's Bing search engine. Conversely, Bing will power Nokia's search services.
This is a partnership that holds great significance and importance to not just Nokia, but Microsoft too. For the Finnish outfit, a shrinking market share and a weak presence in the North American arena became a thorn in its side over the years. Microsoft, on the other hand, needs to bring the Windows Phone 7 platform to a larger market. Facing criticisms from its existing partners, it makes sense for the Redmond-based company to form an alliance with a partner that has as much to gain, as they have to lose over the next few months. Both Stephen Elop and Steve Ballmer share some of their thoughts on this alliance within the video below:
What's the fate for Symbian and MeeGo? Earlier on, Nokia's stance for its Symbian platform was clear – the Nokia N8 was to be its final Symbian device, with future N-series devices bearing the MeeGo OS. With this new development, Symbian becomes a franchise platform, which will still be made available to its current user base. MeeGo takes on a whole new direction, becoming an open-source platform, with one Nokia device running the MeeGo platform slated for a 2011 launch.
How long will both platforms be able to sustain themselves? While Symbian enjoys a strong market share in emerging markets, with Nokia projecting the sale of "150 million more Symbian units in the years to come", the future isn't as rosy for MeeGo with Nokia's efforts focused on the Windows Phone 7 platform.
Investors, developers and most importantly, consumers - how will it impact the relevant players in this new story development? Investors will be monitoring how both companies will "capture volume and value growth to connect the next billion to the Internet in developing growth markets". In other words, will Nokia finally make some headway in the North American market, and will Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 gain the traction that it desperately needs on a global scale?
The biggest burden will be on developers with this sudden shift in focus for Nokia. For those who have been a stoic supporter of the Symbian, Maemo and even the upcoming MeeGo platform, this will hit them hard. Qt, the cross-platform application framework by Nokia, will still support Symbian and MeeGo. Should developers wish to move onto Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will provide guidance and its free Windows Phone Developer Tools (Visual Studio 2010, Expression, Silverlight and the XNA Framework) to interested parties. And that is a slap in the face for Nokia's once loyal developer base.
How are consumers reacting to this news? Comments vary on our Facebook page, with some seeing this as a fatal move for Nokia, accelerating its demise. Others are taking another stance, putting hopes on Nokia's desire to be a strong dedicated partner for success. Over the years, there were many who bailed on Nokia devices purely for its Symbian OS. Perhaps, this fresh start will reignite the consumer's interest in the Nokia portfolio.
For now, we hesitate to agree with the "two turkeys do not make an eagle" comment by Google's Vice-President of Engineering, Vic Gundotra. Instead, let us keep our hopes up, and see where this development is headed. As of now, there has been no official word on when Nokia will be unveiling its first Windows Phone 7 device. With 2011 and 2012 slated as the transition years for Nokia, we might have to expect less Nokia phones to hit the market.
As for that one MeeGo device, it'll be a legacy to remind Nokia of the drastic change it took in 2011.
It's just too bad that it took so long for Nokia to realize its state, but we really hope this is a wake-up call for good.