Nokia announces smartphone deal with Microsoft
It was inevitable that Nokia would have to take drastic steps in a bid to keep its sales up. Where it was once the king of the smartphones, Nokia has struggled in the face of competition from Apple and Google in recent years.
Android and the iPhone have made significant inroads into its market share, and according to figures from Gartner, Nokia saw its share slump from 50.8 per cent in 2007 to 27.1 per cent in the last quarter.
It’s grim reading for the company. Even the launch of the N8 and the announcement of the E7 failed to have as big an impact as the company no doubt hoped.
And so it came to this. There’s been rumours in recent days that Nokia was preparing to announce a partnership with Microsoft. Today, it did.
In an open letter, Nokia’s chief executive – former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop – and Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer outline the details. Nokia will adopt Windows Phone as its main software, Bing will power Nokia searches and Microsoft AdCenter will provide search advertising services for Nokia devices. Nokia Maps (a useful piece of software that doesn’t deserve to be abandoned) will become a “core part” of Microsoft’s mapping services, integrated into the Bing search engine and AdCenter advertising platform. Nokia’s content and application store, meanwhile, will be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace.
The new deal with Microsoft sees Symbian move from Nokia’s primary platform to a franchise platform. There are about 200 million Symbian users out there, according to Nokia’s figures, though how long they will remain so is another thing. Nokia is expecting to sell another 150 million Symbian devices, although its time frame of ‘the year to come’ is a little vague.
Is it an admission of defeat? Considering only a few months ago Nokia was talking tough about taking on Google and Apple with Symbian, it is a little.
But does it mean the death of Symbian? The software platform has been on a slow decline in recent years. Samsung and Sony Ericsson have both dropped the OS from their smartphone plans, and while there are millions of devices out there, it’s not clear how many of these are legacy devices that will eventually be replaced, possibly with Windows Phone, iOS or Android.
And what about MeeGo? Announced at last year’s Mobile World Congress, the tie-in with Intel has yielded little in the meantime. Setting up MeeGo as potential rival to Android, iOS and Windows Phone appears to have been too much of a mammoth task for Nokia. But like Symbian, it’s not being ditched just yet.
Nokia’s statement says:
“Under the new strategy, MeeGo becomes an open-source, mobile operating system project. MeeGo will place increased emphasis on longer-term market exploration of next-generation devices, platforms and user experiences. Nokia still plans to ship a MeeGo-related product later this year.”
Again, vague. Plans change, as Nokia made very clear today.
From being the strongest contender a few years ago, Nokia has become somewhat of an underdog. But it’s coming out fighting (again), at least going by today’s statement.
The open letter from Elop and Ballmer said:
“There are other mobile ecosystems. We will disrupt them. There will be challenges. We will overcome them. Success requires speed. We will be swift.”
Can they do it? It’s anyone’s guess. Windows Phone is a relatively new platform, and Apple and Google already have a substantial headstart. But you can’t blame them for trying. And the combination of both firms’ expertise might just be what they both need to make a dent in the Android/iOS march.