Kudos to Nokia
The tech blogs are all atwitter about Nokia’s move to Windows Phone 7, and the response is overwhelmingly negative. Personally I think they’re all insane. Nokia’s Stephen Elop has sent a bold signal that he’s not going to sit there and shuffle deck chairs on the Hindenburg while Android and Apple eat the rest of their large but rapidly declining market share in smart phones.
Now, I’m not 100% sure Nokia made the right call going with Windows. Android might have been a better alternative. I can see why they’d go with Windows Phone though. Microsoft is the devil you know. They’re honest about their intentions. They want to make money selling you their operating system and selling apps on it. I’d bet they’re even sharing the latter with Nokia. Their interests are aligned with an OEM’s just as they have been in the PC market for decades now.
Google’s somewhat sneaky about the whole thing. They’ll give you the “open source” operating system, but all the good parts of it are closed source and owned by Google. It may be free as in beer, but it isn’t free as in speech, and it isn’t going to get any freer over time either. If you want access to the Android app market (and if you don’t have that, good luck selling units) you have to play by their increasingly stringent rules, which soon will include using Android’s stock UI.
Moreover Windows Phone 7 is marketable, Android isn’t. Windows is a brand that, no matter how often maligned it may be by people who read tech blogs is still trusted by most people. Android is a commodity. I’ve asked just about everyone I’ve encountered with a smart phone what operating system they’re on. Most of the Android people say “I don’t know.” Windows and iOS don’t have that problem, and if Nokia wants to create value they need to avoid being a commodity.
As unrecognizable as Android is to customers, Symbian is far worse. Samsung, Motorola, LG, and Sony-Ericsson all moved on because of it. Its web browser sucks. Despite having the largest share in the market its app selection is anemic. It is, as Elop said, a burning platform.
A lot of the nutjobs complaining about “Elopocalypse” say Nokia should have just improved Symbian. But then they’d be looking at, at best, 1-2 years before they had a viable competitor to Android and iOS, and another year at least before the apps arrive, if they ever do at all. The smart phone OS market is going to be won in less time than that. Nokia doesn’t have time to wait for Mr. Right (if you even accept the assumption that there’s significant value in owning the software, which itself is ludicrous) because they need Mr. Right now.
It takes a bold leader to ditch a platform with the highest share in its market. There’s a fine line between courage and stupidity, but I think they’re on the right side of it. They could spend lots of time and money developing an OS that can compete with what’s out there now, then lots more time and money trying to attract developers to it. And if the first iPhone had just launched this year that might be the way to go. But it didn’t, so it isn’t, and I think Nokia should be commended for having the courage to make a bold play to recoup what they’ve lost.