Looks like Elop is betting the ranch on… something.
He says Nokia has to join a successful ecosystem or build one. I have no confidence that Nokia can rally an ecosystem around Nokia products and standards, like Symbian. Here’s what I wrote in October 2009:
Stowe Boyd, Nokia Is Lost
I recall when I last spent serious time with the Nokia folks was in Barcelona, at the World Mobile Congress in early 2008. [Disclosure: As part of the Nokia Bloggers program, they subsidized my travel there, along with a handful of others.] There was a press conference with the CEO presenting (his name escapes me), and he was visibly upset by the press questions about the iPhone touch interface and how it was going to revolutionize cell phones.
His response was oddly passive. They had things in the works, he suggested. They had a long range development plan, and touch was only one element of the innovations to come, he said. Blah blah bla, woof woof, he seemed to say.
That was 18 months ago, and the phones coming out these days look like they were designed in the late 90s.
I admit that I miss my 5 megapixel camera in my old Nokia, but I sure don’t miss the horrible software, the weirdo navigation, and trying to figure out where files were stored on the device. I will never go back to that sort of old school, DOS-feel Nokia hell again. And I am sure that is going to be true of nearly everyone who has experienced iPhone.
I am not saying there is no room for experimentation, or alternatives to iPhone. Android, for example, may yield some very fruitful results. But Nokia and Symbian just isn’t innovative. It’s like GM in a world with Mini Cooper, Toyata Prius and Smartcar.
Given his past, Elop is likely to jump to a Microsoft partnership, which is like two drowning people holding on to each other.
There is huge room in the Android space, but Elop seems averse to getting into Googleland:
In about two years, Android created a platform that attracts application developers, service providers and hardware manufacturers. Android came in at the high-end, they are now winning the mid-range, and quickly they are going downstream to phones under €100. Google has become a gravitational force, drawing much of the industry’s innovation to its core.
And that’s where Nokia should be, finding and building in Android niches. I think there is an Android niche to replace Blackberry, for example.
But I bet he’ll aim toward his comfort zone: Microsoft.
We should ignore the Windows brand extension on Microsoft’s new Phone 7 OS, and instead focus on what it actually offers.
It looks to me like the first of the next generation of operating platforms, mobile or desktop, in which social capabilities are treated as foundational:
Ian Williams, Microsoft unveils Windows Phone Series 7 OS
According to [Joe] Belfiore [vice president of Windows Phone], the primary focus of the Windows Phone 7 OS is “aggregating discrete sources of data into a centralised repository that’s fun and easy to use.”
As a result, the OS includes six hubs, each of which pulls together content and services based on a particular theme.
The the first four hubs are: People, which combines contact and status information from the address book, social networks and server locations like Microsoft Exchange; Pictures, which grabs photos on the phone, those synced with a PC and web services like Flickr or Live Gallery; Games, which combines locally stored mobile games with Xbox Live details including your avatar; and Music + Video, which is a direct port of the software that drives the Vole’s Zune media player and has a PC linked content library and online music including streaming services.
Not entirely forsaking its work ethic, or rather its PC applications cash cow, Microsoft has dubbed the fifth hub Office, which brings together access to the Vole’s standard Microsoft Office suite as well as Onenote, Sharepoint and Outlook. Somehow it apparently seems to think that people are going to want to work with those fully-fledged PC applications, beyond just email and text messaging, on their relatively small phone screens.
Last is the Marketplace hub that taps into Microsoft’s app store, which so far has failed to impress.
The question is: what will the winning metaphors of social engagement on these platforms?
I don’t think it’s Facebook, but in the absence of interoperable standards for following, liking, and reposting, Microsoft chose Facebook. In fact it’s as if Microsoft built Facebook’s phone for them. But the ‘People Hub’ is just a sophisticated client, and Windows 7 has put social interaction in the foreground, but not built in at a fundamental level in the OS.
But the real answer is a next generation OS. I am expecting that from Apple, though, as a slow ascension of features in iOS, then finally reflected back into a future version of Mac OS.
The ones that could do something radical is Google, with Android, but they aren’t, either. Brian Chen is gaga over Microsoft’s attention to managing its hardware partners:
The crucial part of Microsoft’s new phone strategy is the quality control it imposes onto its hardware partners. Rather than code an operating system and allow manufacturers to do whatever they want with it — like Google is doing with Android — Microsoft is requiring hardware partners to meet a rigid criteria in order to run Windows Phone 7.
Each device must feature three standard hardware buttons, for example, and before they can ship with Windows Phone 7, they have to pass a series of tests directed by Microsoft. (As I mentioned in a feature story about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has created new lab facilities containing robots and automated programs to test each handset to ensure that features work properly and consistently across multiple devices.)
I don’t buy that as some tremendous advantage over Android. It sounds like an attempt to get some of the bang that Apple gets from not licensing its stuff out to anybody.
If Microsoft is going to have a hit with Phone 7 it will be as a Facebook device. Period. And not because of relative quality differences over Android.