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Why Nokia, Microsoft Tie-Up is Good For Developers

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What a year for Microsoft! Only a year ago, we were speculating about whether the software giant’s infamous for its muddled strategy for Windows Mobile would really be successful in catching-up with Apple and Android. And while Microsoft is not there yet, you would have to admit that convincing the world’s largest handset manufacturer to drop its own OS efforts in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, would and should go down as a major success.

In signing up Nokia, Microsoft now has access to a range of hardware designs. Consumers want devices with QWERTY, without QWERTY, and small, medium, and large touch screens. They want flips, folds and swivels. They are now in a position to deliver in conjunction with a very slick OS, thanks to this one partnership with Nokia.

Mapped For Success

Related to this, the ability to add Nokia Maps to Windows Phone 7 is also a really significant for Microsoft. In Nokia Maps, Microsoft is getting a well-designed Maps application with a fantastic user interface. Smartphone maps are often unsung heroes. While they are good at preventing you from getting lost, a good maps application can also prevent you from getting a poor deal, or having to endure a meal at a substandard restaurant. This is a pillar of the future of mobility and Nokia will control it.

The Microsoft-Nokia deal has major implications for the developer ecosystem too. Microsoft and Nokia have between them solved one of the most pesky questions for developers in recent times – the third platform question.

This question goes something like this. ‘If you’ve developed your Android app, you’ve developed your IOS app – what exactly do you do next?’  What do you do? Where do you focus? There’s too much market share at stake to simply ignore the other platforms, but there too many other app ecosystems to have the time and resource to cover them all.

That question is now settled in favor of is Windows Phone 7.  Developers will start to gravitate towards this platform, and see it as part of their development roadmap alongside Android and Apple. The question ‘What are we doing about Windows Phone?’ will start to be asked.

Innovation Blooms

This is a big step and will lead to two kinds of innovation — the market is now organizing into a three player game. In a duopoly, companies focus on competing solely with each other, sometimes at the expense of their own philosophies. It is a zero sum game of reaction and counter-reaction. With a third viable player, you always tend to get more space for differences of approach and interplay between them. This, ultimately, has to be good for innovation.

Secondly, the Windows Phone 7 UX metaphor is so substantially different from the Android and Apple metaphors that it will give developers permission to try something different. For one, developers have the room with Windows Phone 7 to explore what a hub-centric metaphor rather than an app-centric metaphor means for development. More importantly though, users have no expectation that a Windows Phone 7 device is going to behave in the same way as an Apple or an Android device. If they open up Flickr or Foursquare on a Windows Phone 7 device, they don’t expect it to behave in the same way as it behaves on an Apple or Android device.

Don’t write Windows Phone 7 off as a perpetual third player here either. As services become the differentiator, this partnership could prove pivotal in establishing Microsoft (and Nokia) as very real competitors to Android and Apple.

Although Google has created a strong platform which can be rolled out across any number of devices, with an emphasis on rich customization of the OS, this customization will inevitably mean fragmentation and differences in performance on different OS’s. Apple has decided to control the whole user experience through from the handset to the application ecosystem as much as possible for a consistent user experience, but this ultimately means a limited number of devices.

As the ecosystem evolves, you could see an interesting phenomenon start to emerge. As the most popular applications become available on all three devices, the focus will shift back to form factor.

Think of a future scenario – the Apple community could grow tired of the lack of variation in form factor, and start to seek this variation out with other manufacturers. Google customers will be frustrated by being unable to run the application or service they want on their handset because their version of the firmware does not support it. On the other hand, Windows Phone 7 will offer a wide range of form factors with a controlled and strong user experience. Nokia, for its part, will have swapped tending to an ecosystem on life support to satisfying the growing demand for form factors around the expanding Windows Phone 7 ecosystem. Suddenly this deal starts to make sense. .

Christian Lindholm is a managing partner at Fjord, a London-based convergence design agency. He worked at Yahoo and also spent ten years at Nokia in various roles. He invented the Nokia Navi-key user-interface and is regarded as the father the Series 60 user-interface. He also created Nokia Lifeblog – a multimedia diary. He was a speaker at our Mobilize 2010 conference.


21 Responses to “Why Nokia, Microsoft Tie-Up is Good For Developers”

  1. Wow so much cool aid being drunk at the Nokia HQ.

    If Nokia gets access to Win code and can release Nokia versions in advance of the other makers why would any of them keep making Win devices?

    After being knifed by Nokia why would any developer work on WinKia?

    With Rim supporting Droid Apps on the Playbook why would anybody support Win? I love how the Kool Aid kid suggests developers when they’re finished with Droid and Apple apps they’ll work on Win. Yes in their vast spare time they’ll support Winkia.

  2. Even better for developers is that Alien Dalvik allows Android apps to run unmodified on Meego. Can you imagine the reach this extends to a single developer?
    Now all you get is a subset of a subset….

  3. This article is a fantasy.

    Microsoft has no mobile software ecosystem at the moment. What’s going to change that?

    Windows Phone 7 has been a flop with lackluster sales. The public has avoided Microsoft mobile OSes, because Microsoft’s reputation in mobile is poison. Adding even more handsets to the mix will achieve nothing.

    Symbian has about 30% of the smartphone market, and is declining.

    Windows Phone 7 has around 2% of the smartphone market, and is also declining. Nokia is jumping off one burning platform onto something even worse.

    Nokia spent tens of billions of euros over the past decade, to keep its independence and avoid Microsoft. Today, Elop’s excuse was that Microsoft would give Nokia just a “few billion” dollars in compensation for joining Windows Phone 7.

    Meanwhile, some other reports say that Elop still has a major shareholding in Microsoft.

  4. This sounds to me like the year of the Linux [Desktop] will be 20xx. Take your pick. No strategy no year of XXXX.
    If we look at WinP7 their tiles could easily be context containers. We talk on this blog about context since at least 2006 (did a quick look up). If they would do that the assumption of who/what is a developer would change.
    UI habits are really hard to change ask anybody from ex. SUN (NeWS) or Steve Jobs (NeXT) or as other countless research projects have proven.
    If you want lots of new developers the assumption of who is that developer has to change, ask Microsoft (VB). So far Microsoft has shown no clue. They sound like they are the top dog, in reality they are a flea on the top dog.

  5. As most folks know, there are typically two configurations of products that work best in the long term. High volume low mark-up (commodity) and also low volume high mark-up (luxury).

    I just don’t see Nokia/Microsoft tie up being profitable in it’s current configuration. Android and iOS are so far ahead in terms of both marketshare and also developer mindshare that it’s not funny.

  6. Stocklone

    I absolutely love the look and feel of WP7 OS. I also love that WP7 is the middle ground between Android and Apple. I hope consumers will give WP7 a chance instead running straight for an Android or Apple phone. For clarification, I am an Android fanatic but I realize there are some issues with the platform and welcome an alternative that is not Apple. This really became apparent after writing an e-mail to a friend as intro/help to his wife’s new HTC Incredible. Android can be complicated. The worst part is the features that are really awesome are sometimes hidden behind something with no indication they are there if the user would do the proper gesture or press the right button in the right manner. You can learn all this of course but I highly doubt the non-techie people are taking the time.

  7. I can’t see how Microsoft will effectively play in a three-player game. Apple has the high end, Google/Android is in the mid-to-low end. In the end, The MS platform would probably turn out as a great alternative to the “Jitterbug” phones for baby boomers. To do this, the entire ecosystem would need to be locked down tightly.

    It should be built for folks who have Hotmail accounts, rely on WebTV for internet, have vast VHS and SelectaVision ( ) collections C-band satellite service and are big fans of The RCA “New Vista”

    What do you think?

  8. > “The question ‘What are we doing about Windows Phone?’ will start to be asked.”

    Well, maybe in a year. Maybe. Get back to us when they start shipping product.

    But by then Apple will have introduced iPhone5, iPad2, iOS 4.3 (or 4.4), a new iPod Touch, and perhaps a new iPhone Nano and iPad Mini. Likewise, Google will have released 2-3 new versions of Android, while OHA licensees will be selling (conservatively) 40-50 new smartphone models, plus a dozen or so new tablets. And I won’t even guess at how many cool, new games or applications will be released — and, more importantly, grabbing consumer eyeballs via tech review headlines — for Android and iOS.

  9. You need to learn to use the word “metaphor.” Also, your theories about duopolies are really far-fetched and contradict the alleged fragmentation of the Android market. We’ve lived in the middle of duopolies (Windows Vs. MacOs to mention the closest example)and nothing of what you write has happened. Really poor analysis.

  10. Lucian Armasu

    Please explain how Nokia’s WP7 phones won’t experience the very same hardware fragmentation as Android. After all, Nokia makes phones for all price ranges, right?

    Also do you think that if Nokia ends up making dozens of models every year 2-3 years from now, they will make the phone’s UI look exactly the same? You can bet there will be some heavy customization going on there. Otherwise people will get bored quickly with the WP7 look, especially when there will be a huge variety of Android phones out there. To most people, WP7 phones will look the same as they did 2 years before, and I think customization is important in the smartphone market, because they are so personal.

    Plus, since Android is becoming the defacto platform, you’ll see most services flock towards it – like the Playstation Suite. I believe we’ll see more of those types of deals appearing for the Android ecosystem.

  11. nokiaisdoomed

    Soo people want QWERTY yes thats true! but what on earth does this have with WP7? This could be done if you get that N9 out also with Meego.

    Nokia just loosed a whole community and only one winning on this deal is Microsoft.

  12. So now a ton of form factors and variants (which played a part of completely paralyzing Nokia R&D) are a great thing? Wasn’t it the iOS way of focusing on a single experience that made it possible to ensure a stellar no compromise user experience?

    “In Nokia Maps, Microsoft is getting a well-designed Maps application with a fantastic user interface.” What Nokia Maps for WP7? I’m sure the project hasn’t even started yet and won’t be on the first handsets. And what comes to Nokia providing map data to Bing, well they already do. Only thing that’s going to change is that instead of real money some Mickey Mouse money is going to be exchanged (maps for reduced licensing fees).

  13. Steve Ardire

    >Think of a future scenario – the Apple community could grow tired of the lack of variation in form factor, and start to seek this variation out with other manufacturers.

    This post is weak spin and your scenario is a non starter

    Microsoft to pay out ‘billions’ as part of Nokia deal the biggest winner here is #apple

  14. the ‘future’ scenario (last paragraph) is based on assumption that Nokia & MS will delver device with constant software update across all form factors..

    with smartphones there are only two variations one with physical keyboard and one without..
    Nokia will fight against Android to capture market with devices which may follow nokia tradition of not caring for firmaware update after release