Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nokia: Looking Ahead

In what appears to be one of the most dramatic moves in its history, Nokia, the mobile phone Finnish giant, has made a deal with Microsoft regarding extensive use of Windows Phone 7 on its mobile devices. While this may come as no surprise to many, for fans of the company though this development is quite a shock.

Nokia has been a bleeding company for quite sometime now, recording diminishing marketshare especially in the high end of the smartphone spectrum. A few days back Stephen Elop in a memo to his company employees openly admitted as having no device till date which could match the iPhone experience. That very frankly set the tone for things to come. It became quite apparent that the once largest mobile company was really in decline and needed some strong partnership to help bolster sales and reputation.


For one, Nokia has announced that it will concentrate on Windows Mobile as its primary mobile OS. Now that clearly spells out the doom for Symbian, the ageing OS which has been the cornerstone for Nokia's success in the pre-touchscreen age. Nokia had till recently advocated the use of Qt among its developers to bridge the platform divide that affects it. However this recent shift in strategy will surely come as a shock to the hundreds of independent developers working on that platform. And the repercussions have already started showing. Thousands of  Nokia employees staged a walkout yesterday at Helsinki. Expect more episodes like this to hog the headlines in the next few weeks.


First and foremost this means gaining legitimacy as a viable and robust mobile platform. Windows Mobile 7 hasn't really seen much of developer adoption and hasn't really attracted much consumer attention either. Now that the largest manufacturer of mobile phones on the planet has chosen their platform as their primary one will please everyone in the Microsoft campus. Microsoft wont feel alienated anymore when it comes to mobiles.

Secondly, Microsoft will now have access to a huge market base across the world. Nokia is massively popular in Asia and quite formidable still in Europe even though it has a non existent presence in the US. This means a lot of market share for Windows Mobile, currently one of the least used platforms.

No one can deny the fact that Nokia has forever produced brilliantly engineered hardware. Its the software part that has often bothered the company. Now with Nokia lending its support to Microsoft, it will have a better chance of attracting consumers, especially since none of the Windows Mobile Phones have exceptionally outstanding technical specs.


This without a doubt is a huge loss of face for Nokia. It has now practically admitted that its incapable of competing with the current market leaders Apple and Android and that billions of dollars it spent on creating a platform which would become a viable third alternative was a huge mistake. To be frank, it has basically admitted that its developers are incapable of producing world class softwares. Now if that isn't the biggest embarrassment for a company, I don't know what is!

Apart from this massive setback though, there are a few positives for the company. First, it now has almost stopped itself from going into oblivion. Nokia has assured itself a future in the mobile arena. It may not be as bright as its past but it surely exists.

Nokia will now have access to the US market thanks to Microsoft's presence and the relative 'popularity' of Windows Mobiles in the US compared to Symbian. Nokia could also benefit from Microsoft's other brand names like Xbox etc.

Now you might wonder why I havent talked about Windows Mobile platform as being an advantage in the first place. Well thats mainly because once you browse through the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) interface, you might actually end up regretting the loss of Symbian. Multitasking on WP7 is nearly not as elegant as in Symbian or the iPhone or Android. The menu system is immensely user-unfriendly to say the least. And the home screen in short, is disastrous (I would anyday prefer the widgetised interface of Symbian). However not everything in WP7 is a failure. The browser is beautiful. Much better than the web browser on Symbian and much more organised. The applications look and feel much better on WP7 than on Symbian (well most apps on Symbian do get the job done, but interface wise are very very basic). There are a few other advantages as well, but not really something which would make someone fall in love with WP7.

In conclusion, this has been a huge week for Nokia. It now has to rebuild its brand from scratch. All over again. Although this may seem like an uphill (read next to impossible) task, there may just be light at the end of the tunnel.

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