Nokia Windows Phone 7

It doesn’t matter if Nokia launches a Windows Phone…

by Ben Smith on 9th February 2011

A consensus is forming that Nokia and new CEO Stephen Elop are going to announce something big on Friday. It’s rumoured to be a Windows Phone 7 announcement, specifically one for North America where Nokia is mostly ignored.

If they do there’ll be an explosion in the tech press… and I’ll be liberally hitting ‘Mark All Read’ in Google Reader.

Because it doesn’t matter… not in isolation.

A Microsoft-powered Nokia device could be great – I’d love one. It could be a delight to use, but I see two possibilities for such a combo:

  1. A stop-gap until Symbian and MeeGo are ‘ready’. Integration with the existing Nokia eco-system (Ovi store, Ovi services and developer platforms) would be minimal. This would just be about selling devices in the US.
  2. A new smart phone platform ‘forever’. Symbian is relegated to dumb-phone territory and the new OS provides the platform for everything up to ‘mobile computing’ (where MeeGo lives). Windows Phone gets the full Nokia treatment and runs Qt (the software ‘layer’ that already provides compatibility between Symbian and MeeGo).

Both start with a single Windows-powered device, but the consequences are interesting…

Stop-Gap Option

This sells some devices, pacifies the tech press and does some emergency repairs to Nokia’s brand image in the US. But it doesn’t build a legion of loyal North American Nokia users… it just re-enforces the Windows Phone platform. When the time comes to switch back to the ‘master plan’ (or any time HTC offers a better hardware / price combination) consumers will go as easily as they came.

See you again in 2 years for the same conversation.

‘Brave New World’ Option

This offers a way forward longer-term, but it emasculates the Ovi services. Windows Phone 7 has its own marketplace, email, cloud platform and IM service. How would Nokia promote its own offerings, especially if they only worked on Nokia devices (because of Qt)?

Nokia can’t just be a hardware vendor… customers need to move easily between platforms and developers need a common language. More than that though, it’s about the money… To continue as a top-tier player Nokia needs app revenue, content revenue and all the things that come next (like financial services).

Apple has this. RIM has this. Google has this. Nokia must too.

So does it matter if Nokia announces a Windows Phone? No. It matters how they answer the question “what next?”

Image credit: The Nokia Blog

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