Microsoft gets big backing for Windows Phone 7, Nokia gets a fire extinguisher
Nokia will use Windows Phone 7 on future smartphones, pushing Symbian to one side, and working with Microsoft in a partnership to compete with the iPhone and Android platforms.
The widely-predicted deal puts Windows Phone at the centre of Nokia’s future plans and gives the phone company a role in its development. It is designed to boost the poor market share of the Microsoft operating system, and solves Nokia’s strategy crisis, which was likened to a burning oil rig in a leaked memo from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop earlier this week.
Windows Phone 7 – time to market?
Nokia and Microsoft will “use their complementary strengths and expertise to create a new global mobile ecosystem,” according to the joint release, which also promises to address a key criticism of both companies: speed of execution.
“The partnership would create the opportunity for rapid time to market execution,” said the release. New smartphones on the joint platform will use Windows Phone 7, and Bing search from Microsoft, along with Nokia’s Maps, and Nokia’s strengths in imaging and hardwre design.
Nokia-Microsoft phones could reach a “larger range of price points, market segments and geographies,” said the release, pointing out that Nokia’s operator partnerships help it to do well in countries where credit cards are not widespread.
They will also have adverts served by Microsoft AdCenter.
Symbian is sidelined
With Nokia moving to Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform, Symbian will become a “franchise platform” said the release, moving to lower end devices. Nokia still expects to sell another 150 million more Symbian devices in the coming years, before finally retiring it.
The writing has been on the wall for Symbian – although Gartner says it still leads the market in smartphones. Gartner vice president Nick Jones likened it to the Titanic last year, saying it was doomed. Other analysts say Symbian is already overtaken by Android and iPhone.
MeeGo, the joint Intel-Nokia open source OS, which was once Nokia’s future flagship, will still exist, but more as an experimental open-source, mobile operating system project. “Nokia still plans to ship a MeeGo-related product later this year,” said the release, but it will have “an emphasis on longer-term market exploration of next-generation devices, platforms and user experiences.”
“I am excited about this partnership with Nokia,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. “Ecosystems thrive when fueled by speed, innovation and scale. The partnership announced today provides incredible scale, vast expertise in hardware and software innovation and a proven ability to execute.”
“Today, developers, operators and consumers want compelling mobile products, which include not only the device, but the software, services, applications and customer support that make a great experience,” Stephen Elop, Nokia President and CEO, said at a joint news conference in London. “Nokia and Microsoft will combine our strengths to deliver an ecosystem with unrivalled global reach and scale. It’s now a three-horse race.”
Analysts were more guarded: “This is a partnership born out of both parties’ fear of marginalisation at the hands of Apple and Google but there is no silver bullet,” analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight told Reuters.