Nokia and Microsoft announced a “broad strategic partnership” feb 11 2011, as both companies try to claw their way back into the smartphone market. Nokia will now produce a host of new Windows 7 phones that CEO Stephen Elop promises will make the segment a “three horse race” between Google, Apple, and the new Nokia-Microsoft partnership. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, meanwhile, said the move would “dramatically accelerate” Windows Mobile 7 adoption.
This pioneering partnership has been kindled to soon equip Nokia’s Symbian devices with smarter and more advanced features for working on the move. Heaps of Nokia smartphones are primed to benefit over time, with Eseries on the frontline leading the charge and set to showcase the first breed of business services and apps. Dedicated teams from inside Nokia and Microsoft are now working together to bring this new era of mobile productivity to life on Symbian handsets. This isn’t just conceptual stuff, as both companies are closely collaborating to ensure the software and services are fully co-created, from the design and development of their creations to the marketing to ensure the best possible product ends up proudly in our palms
Microsoft/Nokia Partnership Enough to Challenge Apple?
App GapThe app gap is oft-cited as a prime reason behind Apple’s success, but it bears repeating. iOS currently has almost 350,000 active apps available to consumers through the App Store. Windows Phone 7 has about 8,000 apps. Even with a growth rate of 125 apps each day, Apple’s advantage at this point may be insurmountable. Each Apple iOS device averages more than 60 downloaded apps, and the App Store remains the top destination by a huge margin in terms of time spent browsing app marketplaces by consumers.
Apple has the added advantage of offering multiple, non-phone platforms that also use and encourage the sale of apps (iPod touch and iPad), which adds to the perceived value of software purchases for consumers. Try as it might, Windows can’t gain purchase in the personal media player market, and WP7 doesn’t seem poised to make the jump to tablets anytime soon.
The Holistic ApproachUnder the new arrangement between the two companies, Nokia builds hardware, and Microsoft builds software. Apple builds both. The advantage of having both hardware and software teams constantly working together to deliver the best possible consumer experience as a total product cannot be overemphasized. Any partnership between two companies, no matter how closely it may resemble an actual merger, isn’t one. Corporate cultures, offices and ultimate goals remain distinct. In this case, that’s especially true, since Microsoft announced this was a non-exclusive deal, and it would still be working with other hardware partners .
Apple’s ability to pair the hardware and software development sides of making a smartphone not only allow it to win the UX game, but also advantageously affects cost and the pace of breakthroughs and advances, and downplays the importance of internal specifications. It’s why an iPhone that’s almost a year old can still compete with just-released hardware from competitors in terms of real-world performance, and it’s a big part of why Apple enjoys the high margins that it does on the sale of each piece of hardware it makes.
Because Nokia and Microsoft aren’t starting from scratch, it’s most likely that the partnership will bear all the earmarks of success, at least from the outset. If they do it right, we’ll see the simultaneous release of a bunch of shiny new handsets sporting WP7, and these will be decently well-received by Nokia’s existing customer base. But without significant changes from either camp in the way they think about how to make phones and software, Apple doesn’t have to worry about being knocked off its rock just yet.