Nokia is putting its weight behind Microsoft's WP7 - does this mean we have two winners or just a bigger loser?
It is finally official. Speculation that Nokia would abandon its own platforms and adopt either Android or Windows Phone 7 (WP7) have proved correct - they opted to go with WP7.
The question is will this choice simply prolong the decline in Nokia's fortunes as WP7 slowly spirals down in popularity with developers and end users or will it revitalise WP7 and give Nokia the edge in the market they need.
In short is Nokia plus WP7 bigger than the pair of them alone?
The announcement by Microsoft leaves little room for maneuver or for Nokia to back multiple platforms in its search for success. The agreement doesn't prohibit Nokia from developing its existing systems further but WP7 is to be its "principle" platform. To quote:
"Nokia would adopt Windows Phone as its principal smartphone strategy,..."
It is clear that Microsoft expects Nokia to commit to developing the WP7 platform - this is not a passive adoption - but it is also clear that Microsoft is retaining control over the core of the system.
...innovating on top of the platform in areas such as imaging, where Nokia is a market leader.
Other important details are that Nokia maps are to become "a core part of Microsoft's mapping services". This means that Nokia Maps is to be integrated with Bing and adCenter - there is no word on Bing Maps. Clearly with Nokia Maps Microsoft has a map service too many and we will have to wait and see what this means for Bing Maps and the API.
A fairly obvious move is that Bing is to be Nokia's search provider and adCenter is to provide the in-app advertising on the platform.
Nokia's Ovi app store is to be integrated with Microsoft's Marketplace. How this will work is also difficult to see. Are we going to see Symbian apps available alongside WP7 apps? Whose rules are going to apply to app submission?
Microsoft expects Nokia to innovate on the hardware side with particular emphasis on lower cost WP7 hardware, which could see the platform spread into the entry level smartphone market which is currently the province of Android. Nokia's relationship with phone operators is also going to make WP7 easier to use worldwide with in-app billing to the phone account being more freely available. Finally Nokia's marketing machine is to get behind WP7 and make sure that WP7 phones are on offer whenever and wherever you look for an upgrade to you existing mobile phone.
Overall the loss of Nokia's own mobile phone platform is both good and bad. It means we can forget developing for Symbian and the other Nokia operating systems and simply get on with coding for Silverlight and XNA. However, it puts a lot of power in the hands of Microsoft and it creates another big monolithic block that controls access to the marketplace.
To close with a quote from an open letter from Stephen Elop (CEO Nokia) and Steve Ballmer (CEO Microsoft) :
"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."
Does anyone else detect a hint of "Borg" (Star Trek) in this?