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Nokia-Microsoft Partnership: from the pan to the fire?

The Two Steves: Nokia & Microsoft CEO

Last week, Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop sent a note to its employees around the world that they were in trouble as regards the smartphone market. A couple days later, Elop stood with Microsoft CEO, Steven A Ballmer to announce that Nokia will be discarding its OS Symbian and adopting Windows Mobile for its smartphones – in a spirited bid to catch up with Apple’s Iphone and Ipad as well as Google’s android technology.


Ok, one understands why the two giants need each other – windows mobile has not done well in a while and needs way more distribution (which nokia gives as global market leader in phones, especially in the so called emerging markets) and Nokia’s software has usability problems – in my view that is – sound code with a design problem (a problem that windows mobile seems to solve).

However. But. Nevertheless.

I’m sure I stand to be corrected by both Nokia and Microsoft people, but my own perception is that the partnership is a bad move for Nokia – a strategic mistake, I go so far as to assert.

Why? Because Windows Mobile will not solve Nokia’s problem and it is a bad move for African developers and innovators.

Nokia’s smartphone problem was always a design one. Excellent phone technology, crap User Interface. Take the Nokia N8, which courtesy of Nokia I had the pleasure of testing when it was released. I didn’t write about it because I didn’t have the words to express myself – until now.

At the time, I also had the Blackberry Storm 9730 and the Iphone 3GS. If I were to rank them, it would be iphone 3GS, Blackberry 9730 and then Nokia N8. Simple criteria: how easy is it for me to communicate.

All the phones are touch screen phones. Responsiveness of screen? Rank as above. Ease of typing email? Rank as above. Ease of making calls, saving calls made to contacts and such mundane tasks etc? Rank as above. Syncronise contacts, calendar? Rank as above – except with the N8, you can’t syncronise – not with gmail nor with outlook (at least no way that I or anyone I asked – I even asked on twitter – knew.

The problem is just a user friendliness issue. Will Microsoft help with that? Sure thing. They are better with UI. But they suck with the technology – windows mobile looks good but is not good tech.

Also, to my second point, the discarding of Symbian means the death of initiatives in the emerging markets to build apps for Nokia phones. All the collaboration and rapport that Nokia had with Mobile Developers is about to end in my view. Because developers have no faith with windows and because Nokia’s admirable openness is going to be curtailed.

This is an instinctive take. Bad mistake this partnership.

Now android has a real chance in the emerging markets.

I am a writer first and foremost. I am passionate about social entrepreneurship, which I define by finding ways to innovate the world’s processes to make life better for people – whether in business or in the non-profit sector. I am professionally involved at the Open Institute, Thellesi Co and various agricultural ventures.

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