I was not a buyer in the conversation about Nokia going in with Android or WP7. However, I knew Symbian wouldn't last, regardless of my endless love for the platform since the S60v3 days on the E61. Nokia has done the best job of not adapting, or being late adapters in the smartphone platform, where the OS is king, and hardware is second (hence the millions of iPhone 4s sold after finding out about the antenna issue) and the number of Galaxy S phones being littered over the carriers with the GPS fiasco, yet they still have the support of the best selling smartphone platforms in the North American market. Symbian still holds a lead in the market share worldwide, yet they light at the end of that tunnel would come in a definite time-frame, and Stephen Elop refused to be caught with his proverbial pants around his ankles once the Symbian ship runs aground. Being a former exec at Microsoft, and the fact Android is as polluted a mobile platform as the Hudson River, and WP7 was a viable opportunity to bolster one another's trajectory. Granted, WP7 is a very young, and immature OS, but with MeeGo still in the R&D mill, which is based out of the most mature mobile device OS (Maemo), the odds are certainly against Nokia and Microsoft in the smartphone ecosystem, but there are several factors that weigh in favor of the partnership:
- Microsoft's attraction to business - Businesses run on Microsoft, from the floor to the ceiling. Microsoft Exchange is an email server empire. The Microsoft Office suite of programs is second-to-none, and that comes from Mac users with the new Office for Mac 2010. Outlook calendars, tasks, and contacts are probably the most synced content on any smartphone, be it an iPhone, Android-based device, or Symbian-based device. The business of the decision is to provide a vessel to business customers through the world's most renown mobile phone company (and that's not tooting their whistle too loudly, it is a fact).
- Microsoft's growing mobile entertainment division - Zune as a device hasn't been the best of successes, although we can simply blame the iPod and move on. The Zune, as a service, has reaped the most of benefits because every one of the 10+ million of Xbox 360 systems sold in the US have the Zune store built-in, regardless of Xbox Live subscription level. Music, Videos, and Movies are what drives the revenue outside the realm of the video game subspace of the system, and with WP7 being the flagship device for Xbox Live and Zune, Nokia will benefit from being absent in the States with their Ovi Music Store and the failure of N-Gage.
- Nokia's worldwide brand - as the top selling cell phone based on worldwide sales in the past ... well forever, basically, Nokia brings the big name in cell phones WP7 needs to get their software out the doors and on the streets. Microsoft, being a U.S. based company, and much bigger in terms of software development resources, can cut down the cost of the OS, so Nokia can provide premium hardware at a competitive rate, even unlocked. Nokia can also continue being an international phone, being provided on several dozen European carriers subsidized, as well as the future possibilities of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon (sorry Sprint, Nokia says they want nothing to do with you).
- Nokia's quality of hardware - The consensus from the current WP7 devices from HTC, Samsung, and Dell have been, well, not good. Lack of decent camera, poor speaker quality, and other media-related features are what is lacking with the current slate of the WP7 devices. The Dell Venue Pro, the most promising of WP7 devices, has failed to get out of the door before considered a flop. Nokia has a strong hardware development backing, and the Fins do it the best. Back to the early N-series devices, they have always had the best cameras, speakers, and overall build-quality. Even Nokia's low-end feature phones are superb quality, so low-end smartphones can and will be better than the current offerings.
- Microsoft's empire in North America - Microsoft is a worldwide brand in computing, without question, but the empire is based in the states, where the reaches of Nokia's empire fails to tap into. It will be a huge bolster to get Nokia back into the states as a premier device, and the culprit before was the lack of embrace for the Symbian OS. In 6 years of the S60v3 Symbian software lifecycle, a total of 3 devices made it to the States (E61i and E71x for AT&T and the E73 for T-Mobile). Nearly every Nokia device was present on the Euro carriers during that time period. Nokia needs the backing of U.S. carriers to continue their success of yesteryear, and with WP7 now a common and marketable platform for smartphone OS, the U.S. carriers should be able to open their doors once again to Nokia devices.
Long live Symbian.