If you follow the mobile industry even a little bit you could not have avoided to hear about Nokia’s Capital Market Day next Friday, February 11. The air is literary thick with different rumours. So-called analysts are giving their views, mostly guesses, on the situation, which major publications are then quoting as “reliable sources”. Pretty much all the possible scenarios have been thrown around. One of the most resent rumours I’ve heard was that Nokia will partner with Apple and start using iOS on Nokia devices. Probably not one of the most likely scenarios to happen. But that is exactly the problem with rumours. They are just that, rumours. Even information coming straight from the horse’s mouth can be questionable. And should be questioned! Even if the rumour would be true at the moment it can and mostly will change before it is officially released. What we can learn from this is that rumours are rumours and should always be threated as such. Glad we got that out of the way. Lets move on to the rumours.
With out a doubt the most major rumour flying around is the one about Microsoft. Rumours about Nokia and Microsoft joining forces started at the very moment when Nokia announced its new CEO Stephen Elop, ex-Microsoft executive. Many see Elop as a Trojan horse whose only job is to attach Nokia to Microsoft. This is just silly. Elop is not a double agent for Microsoft, but he does have strong connections to it. Nokia and Microsoft announced in August 2009 a partnership, which aims to bring Microsoft Office Mobile to Nokia’s Symbian devices. This agreement was announced by Nokia’s Executive Vice President for Devices Kai Öistämö and surprise, surprise Microsoft’s Business Division President Stephen Elop. No wonder Microsoft related rumors exploded when Elop was made the CEO of Nokia.
Nokia has for long been reassuring investors that they have the best strategy. Symbian will be pushed down the line to ever cheaper smartphones and MeeGo, developed together with Intel, will be the new high-end. So, why are we so fixated on Microsoft or Android when we know that the strategy consists of neither, or does it?
Windows Phone 7
Microsoft was in a seriously bad situation with Windows Mobile. Microsoft’s mobile strategy had no credibility and no future. Until Windows Phone 7 that is. Microsoft learned from its mistakes, went back to the drawing board and came up with Windows Phone 7 (now on referred to as WP7). Overall a very modern and solid mobile operating system, and something that is nothing like the competition. So why wouldn’t WP7 on a Nokia device be a good thing?
There are many things that talk against this deal. Nokia has invested heavily into Qt, a cross-platform application framework originally developed by Trolltech. Nokia acquired the company in 2008 for 104 million euros. Qt is a major cornerstone in Nokia’s future plans. Symbian^3 supports it out of the box as so does the forthcoming MeeGo, which relies heavily on Qt. WP7 does not support Qt, currently at least. So, how would WP7 fit Nokia’s Qt plans? Would WP7 be made Qt complaint? How would WP7 devices relate to Symbian and MeeGo devices in the product portfolio? These are all important questions that we don’t yet know the answers for. Microsoft would most likely be thrilled if Nokia joined its WP7 project, but what’s in it for Nokia?
Palm surprised everyone with WebOS. It was a very innovative and original attempt to bring a fading Palm back to the spotlight. Unfortunately it failed. WebOS powered Palm Pre and Pixi never became commercial successes. In April 2010 Hewlett-Packard acquired Palm for 1.2 billion dollars. HP has high hopes for WebOS, which it develops for smartphones and especially for tablets. What makes WebOS interesting is that many high-level employees jumped the sinking Palm ship and joined Nokia including Peter Skillman the VP of Design and the talent behind WebOS.
HP differs from Microsoft and Google in that it is a hardware company just like Nokia. In a sense HP and Nokia are in a very similar situation as both are transitioning towards software. Would a partnership between two hardware companies with little software experience make sense? Who would benefit from this partnership? Another interesting fact is that WebOS development is head by Ari Jaaksi who used to be the head of MeeGo devices at Nokia. What a small world!
Especially analysts from America seem to drive the rumour of Nokia choosing Android as its next OS. Technically this makes more sense than WP7. Android has its roots in Linux just like MeeGo, it is open source just like MeeGo and it supports Qt just like MeeGo. Still, for many WP7 seems like the more likely option. Most likely only due to Elop – the Trojan horse. Android has not been able to attract developers the same way as iOS, which is still a major concern for Google. Could Nokia and Google join forces to fight the evil empire in application development?
If so, there is still a big but in this scenario. Navigation. Google and Nokia are major competitors when it comes to navigation on mobile devices. Android is also very tightly integrated to Google services, which Nokia is competing against with its Ovi services (and on which Nokia has a partnership with Yahoo!). Could Nokia go with Android without Google services, namely Google Maps? It is clear that the pre-Elop Nokia would have wanted to have full control.
We know that Nokia has been hard at work with MeeGo. What we don’t know is how it is coming along. Remember that MeeGo and Nokia’s long awaited user interface are two different things. The new UI is expected to be introduced soon. Most likely the UI will run on top of MeeGo but could possible also be ported to run on top of something else e.g. Android or Symbian. Running it on top of WP7 doesn’t really make sense as the whole point of WP7 is its unique UI.
Nokia has stressed many times that US market is their priority and needs to be recaptured. This will require radical changes. Symbian is clearly not the answer. Even Nokia should have understood that by now.
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