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Sunday, 13 February 2011 22:50

Nokia and Microsoft: need for speed is paramount.


To stretch a metaphor: the engagement between Microsoft and Nokia has been announced with promises of great things but unless this relationship is swiftly consummated and progeny produced all will be in vain, for rivals' offspring have already been thrust out into the big wide world and are maturing rapidly.

Amidst the myriad commentary and analysis of the Nokia Microsoft deal there seems to be one consensus: Nokia had to throw its lot in with Windows Mobile or Android: the point at which it might have been able to mount a credible Symbian-based challenge to the onslaught of Apple and Android has long passed.

There is also general consensus that the deal will be good for Microsoft. That's not surprising. Microsoft has consistently struggled to gain traction for the various incarnations of its mobile operating systems. Nokia's huge experience, intellectual resources and strength in the mobile market will give Microsoft a huge boost (albeit possibly at the expense of disenfranchising other handset makers that product Windows Mobile based handsets.)

The benefits for Nokia are rather more questionable, although it's probably fair to say it did not have a lot of choice: going with Android would have reduced the one time smartphone market leader to just another maker of Android based handsets (which are rapidly plummeting in price."

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is reported to have said he feared it would be too difficult for Nokia to differentiate itself in the Android ecosystem. He's quoted saying: "It felt a little bit like giving up and not enough like fighting back."

Elop and Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, concluded a joint open letter on the alliance by saying: "There are other mobile ecosystems. We will disrupt them. There will be challenges. We will overcome them. Success requires speed. We will be swift. Together, we see the opportunity, and we have the will, the resources and the drive to succeed."

Fighting words indeed. While they certainly have the resources, and the drive to succeed, they have to bring a whole community of people inside and outside Nokia along with them. And from the postings on the various blogs I have seen there is not a lot of enthusiasm for this deal, and not a lot of trust that Elop is acting in the best interests of Nokia rather than Microsoft.


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Finnish newspapers have noted that he is the seventh largest individual shareholder in Microsoft but owns no shares in Nokia. However his shareholding in Microsoft is tiny: some 130,000 out of a total of 8.4 billion shares.

Even without those barriers the difficulties of bringing together two totally different corporate cultures and technology ecosystems to produce and market meaningful innovations at a speed to match that the rest of the mobile industry will be enormous.

Just to put things into perspective: it is only four years since the iPhone was revealed - after almost of year or ever increasing speculation and hype; a little over three years since Android was unveiled to the world (November 2007) and 2.5 years since the first Android handset, the HTC Dream, debuted in September 2008, arriving in Australia the following January. The game changing iPad celebrated its first birthday only last month.

Before the unveiling of the iPhone and Android there would have been many months, even years of development - At the launch of Android it was said that Google engineers had been working on the project for two years.

By all accounts the Nokia Microsoft alliance has been put together only recently (I'll be kind and won't say 'cobbled'). Even Nokia's press release talks about "plans to form a strategic partnership with Microsoft" and "Nokia's planned move to Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform."

Given the rate at which the mobile world is evolving Nokia and Microsoft will have to pull out all the stops to prevent their 'third ecosystem' from being stillborn.

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