Microsoft-Nokia Partnership - Ten Days In
Well, it was pretty much ten days ago that we heard the first detailed information about a new relationship between Microsoft and Nokia. It certainly turned into a week or so of intrigue. Let's look back at some of the major events that occurred following the announcement.
11-Feb: Microsoft and Nokia announce a strategic partnership in which Windows Phone will become Nokia's principal smartphone platform. Nokia also reveals that they will be able to fully customize the Windows Phone 7 experience, should they so desire. Stephen Elop, the new Nokia CEO, also reveals that there will be substantial reductions in employment within the company.
12-Feb: 15-year Microsoft sales and marketing veteran Chris Weber replaces Nokia USA president Mark Louison effective immediately.
13-Feb: While on stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Elop announces that their first priority is beating Android. They also mention that we will likely see Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices in 2011, with volume shipments in 2012. Reports also surface that Microsoft paid "billions' of dollars for the right to supply Nokia with software.
15-Feb: At their Mobile World Congress keynote, HTC's CEO expresses his opinion that the new Microsoft-Nokia partnership will strengthen the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem. Verizon's CTO, Tony Melone, also speaking at the Congress, comments that he doesn't see the need for them to have a Windows Phone 7 offering on their network while Apple, Android and RIM are still at play. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, revealed in his Congress speech that they did try to convince Nokia to adopt Android, but were unsuccessful. Finally, Christy Wyatt, Motorola's Corporate Vice President of Software and Services Product Management, said that while she would never say never, she doesn't envision Motorola using Microsoft's new phone platform.
16-Feb: Lots of bantering about the 25% drop in Nokia stock price since the announcement of the Microsoft deal. Also, a story emerges about a supposed group of disgruntled shareholders developing a plan to oust Elop and restore the development focus on Meego (this was later proved to be a hoax).
18-Feb: Nokia attempts to entice developers to "stay" and develop for Windows Phone 7 by offering hardware and other incentives.
19-Feb: Reuters quotes Intel CEO Paul Otellini as saying "I wouldn't have made the decision he made, I would probably have gone to Android if I were him. MeeGo would have been the best strategy but he concluded he couldn't afford it." Nokia also addresses industry concerns that Windows Phone 7 won't be deployed on low-end phones which appeal to large market segments. Elop claims that have a plan to address that very issue.
While these were some of the more public developments, debate has raged over just how sound a decision Nokia has made, and how important this will be to Windows Phone 7's success.
I will say this for sure, the deal has cast a significant amount of attention on Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft's predicament. As Windows Phone Thoughts readers will attest, there are a whole lot of issues to be surmounted before Windows Phone 7 reaches any sort of mass success. One of those issues is clearly having a major manufacturer get behind the platform in a big way. This deal accomplishes that. At the very least, it is a strong endorsement for Microsoft, politics considered or not. I think, though, that the bigger issue for Windows Phone 7 right now is the prognosis for a future thriving ecosystem around the platform. It is not obvious to me that this deal will be a tremendous help in that regard. Microsoft needs a bevy of developers to be bringing their best ideas forward in the form of apps, it needs other product developers to be producing accessories for Windows Phone 7 phones, and it needs to build excitement about the possibilities that the platform offers. I don't think this deal helps much in these aspects.
In my opinion, from where we are observing things at this point in time, there are just too many questions about Nokia itself for public sentiment to be that this partnership has solidified Windows Phone 7 as a major market player. It's a significant step forward, just not all the steps needed.