Feb 9, 2008

Microsoft Wants Windows Mobile On Nokias - LMAO!

Two days ago, the news started circulating all over the web: according to iTWire, Microsoft is in discussion with Nokia to have it add Windows Mobile-powered devices to its portfolio. While this news would have made perfect sense for me a year ago, and probably made me a little bit glad, it comes now as the most surprisingly hilarious news I have read in days. Not that I believe it's ever impossible, but it does have a funny ring to it.

I believe Nokia has invested a lot in the Symbian platform (S60 and S40), be it in expertize, research, development, hardware, education, marketing, and many more areas. I believe it has finally reached that place with S60 where it's been finally recognized worldwide as the powerful OS that it is, where people have finally understood and embraced the S60 way of life, and it has gained the amazing market-share that makes it the global decision-maker. For these reasons and more, I believe Microsoft will likely have to do a little more than "urge" for Nokia to change strategies. And I am not talking about whole portfolio switch, even a new line of Windows Mobile devices added to the huge Nokia product line is far from becoming a reality.

Another point to make is that WM's current market-share is 6% globally, according to the same iTWire article. Is Nokia likely to plunge into a 6% market? No. Nokia is more likely to eat that market, with Symbian. Because if it decided to venture in the WM arena, not only will it have to buy a license to use it and rethink its whole hardware design and function to fit the platform (touchscreen or not), but also it will have to invest in developing, improving, personalizing the platform, because that's what it did with Symbian: get the Symbian 9.1 OS and build S60 3rd on top of it. That's a lot of money to compete with giants like Asus, HTC, iMate, HP, Samsung and Motorolla for a bite in a 6% market-share.

And that goes without mentioning the vast array of services that Nokia have recently launched or will launch in the near future. Ovi, N-gage, Maps, Music Store, MOSH, all are based and solidly built on S60. Nokia is no longer the hardware company, it is the software company (recent acquisition of Trolltech) and even more the services company. These services have been engineered to work for S60 (and not S40 for example) for a reason. It's a commitment, on behalf of Nokia to the S60 platform. It's also a statement that hardware is no longer the main purpose, but services are. A company's benefit from hardware come from the device sale itself, whereas a company's benefit from services last for years after the device has been purchased.

The 6% WM market-share denotes that Windows Mobile is not a very popular platform worldwide, and there has to be reasons behind this. Fortunately enough, through the course of this year, I've seen those reasons myself and that's why, after having wished to see WM on a Nokia a year ago, I am now in a place where I'm repulsed by this thought. I am not saying that WM is a piece of crap, on the contrary it has a lesson or two that it can teach S60, but I would pick S60 over it in a blink.

If the news provided by the iTWire article should prove anything, it is that Windows Mobile is desperately looking for a safety net. With the recent success of Apple's iPhone, the near release of Google's Android, RIM's (Blackberry) massive US popularity, Linux sneaking on some devices (Nseries Internet Tablets) and the Symbian worldwide domination; WM and PalmOS are the black sheep. If Microsoft has learned a thing or two from the Windows PC market, it is that facelifts (read: Vista) do not necessarily please everyone. WM6 is a little bit more than a facelift to WM5, but core functionality remained the same. And it isn't putting a platform on more devices that will make it popular, but fixing and improving the platform itself.

I believe that we're now in a time frame where Nokia is a leader not a follower, and a global trend-setter, and if only for this reason, we're not likely to see a Windows Mobile powered Nokia device in the near future. Of course times can change and I can be wrong...


  1. Excellent article. I disagree however. I think WM6 SHOULD replace Symbian. Google is soon releasing Android 0% market share vs. WM5/6 at 6% market share. Apple are already in the market. Ignoring all others (PalmOS etc.) and sticking to the WM6/Android/Symbian, it will be symbian that will ultimately lose the mobile OS battle. Simply put there are not enough resources behind it - Microsoft and Google will be a monolithic battle - A battle in which the developers will take sides, and it will be the software (and features) that sells the phones. Nokia should adopt WM6 and attempt to influence the development of WM7 (while it can), and use this influence to ensure a quality OS. Nokia may have a lot invested in Symbian but they have to have the developers behind the platform developing great software, otherwise they're sunk. I think its these developers that Microsoft and Google are already targetting - Android to the java developer and .net to the WM6 developers - Symbian to ... C++ developers? (and its no "normal" flavour of C++) This is between Google/Microsoft/Apple - Time that Nokia dropped Symbian... I'm personally a Nokia N95 user (and I've attempted to develop software for it) but the phone has too many problems, signing software is archaic in the symbian world. The future is a Java or .Net world... Nokia should join Microsoft (or Google) if it wants to survive...

  2. You make a good point, regarding the 3rd party software developing. Even if S60 is supported by a HUGE developer-base now, it still has issues. If you read past articles here, you would see that my main gripe with s60 has been the lack of medical software, which opened my eyes to the fact that not too many "profession-axed" software are available for s60, eg medical, legislation, engineering, graphic design,... This proves that S60 hasn't been widely adopted by existing companies.
    Nevertheless, I was surprised to learn, a while ago that Skyscape, a major medical software developer, started supporting S60.
    If this proves something it is that:
    1 - With the hardware specs it delivers (substantially Nseries) Nokia has started a trend and managed to make people adopt it's devices globally
    2 - Hence the Symbian platform became popular, because it was supported on the "best" devices (hardware-wise)
    3 - The global success of the Symbian platform made developers COME to it, because supporting it means supporting more than 70% of the market.
    Thus, I think Skyscape won't be the only one to come to S60, and we will see many examples in the future. Nokia are doing everything they can to achieve that.

    One more thing to note is that for now, the average Joe doesn't know nor care about 3rd-party apps. I am a pharmacy student and have barely managed to get 3 of my closest friends to put a free copy of the Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine on their Nokias. And even after discovering the benefits of a 3rd-party software, they NEVER ask for something else, or something that can do more.
    Thus for now, people generally still care about what comes on-the-device and not what they can add to it.

    I know that the average Joe is awakening, and that in years to come, we will see more people look for add-ons to their devices. The Nokia strategy is nothing short of amazing in this domain however. Beside having shifted to the services market, which provides users with ways to download music, play games, communicate, upload photos & videos, they also strive to improve their own OS. By adding features and core functionality to S60 (look at the Nokia beta labs), through their own developers who understand the C++ special flavor like abc, they are making sure that what the average Joe might potentially need to add in the future to his device, will be built into his device. I will cite the audiobook player, the internet radio, gizmo, conversations, location tagger,..., just to name a few.

    (looks like what started like a comment is becoming a thesis)

    Thus, I have to disagree with you as to whether Symbian is a losing and resource-less OS. It is supported and driven by the most powerful company and this by itself gives it an edge or two compared to competitors. However I am eager to see what comes of the battle between the OSs. Android might be a game changer, Linux has a word or two to say, Apple is just starting to flourish, WM has a great promise to live up to in WM7 and Palm hasn't said their last word... It's an exciting battle and I am glad I am here to witness it.

  3. Sorry... This is the same annonymous poster as before... I hear what you say and still I disagree. Only today I had a conversation with a friend about why Nokia devices have had accelerometers for so long and only just been announced. How can you develop for a system when Nokia won't tell anyone anything about the hardware in their mobiles?

    Second, the problem with Symbian is the same problem Microsoft has with Windows. Both OSes are the market leaders, Linux uptake may be slow on PCs and WM 6 may be slow on moile phones, however Windows and Symbian are the giants that will fall hard. Google is the only company in this mix that has an edge... Any market share they gain will be a success.

    Third as phones become more like computers users will expect, correction, demand more software, cheaper (free) and higher quality (bug free). Thats another problem with Symbian, C++ developers (not all - but the majority) fail to clean up their software. When their application crashes, the memory used isn't freed properly, resources are clung to by a process that has ended. On memory constrained devices the hardware will run slower and slower forcing the user to eventually reset the device. Managed languages (WM6 being all about .net and Android being about Java) have a garbage collector so avoid this problem. Avoiding this problem leads to happy users - users are consumers and companies are nothing without consumers.

    Otherwise, I agree, for now Nokia are riding the wave of (tentative) support from consumers. I say tentative, because I know of many disgruntled Nokia users of S60 3rd devices (N95's to be precise) who won't be going back to Nokia after their contracts expire.

  4. Well, now I hear you. I don't have a lot of knowledge of developing and coding (although I would've loved to) so basically I didn't know about these issues. The problem that you stated with C++ and Symbian, that crashed applications leave logs running in the background, explains a couple of problems I have been facing in the past.

    Although I wonder whether this problem can be fixed somehow, I have to give it to you that the frequent crashes will drive people away. On another hand, this reminds of something within the WM platform. If you used one, you would know that the X button doesn't exit an application, but sends it to the background, unlike the X on Windows. All apps can be found in the Running Apps in the Settings > Memory. You have to say that not all users know about this, since they are used that X means close, forever. Just a couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a WM user and medical resident, who said that every other day she has to reboot her device because it starts performing poorly, I showed her the running apps trick, and upon seeing the 20+ items that were there, she understood the problem.

    I know that this problem can be easily solved if Microsoft decides to give the X back its meaning and value and that it doesn't compare to the resources-still-running-in-C++-even-upon-exiting, but it is just an example of how small and silly things can pull a whole platform backwards and make the user experience like hell. I wouldn't be surprised to see that every platform has some sort of major problem somewhere, because if there was such a thing as a perfect OS, it would take the whole 100% market share, right? So it's only up to the OS companies to find these issues and fix them. I think Nokia's recent acquisition of Trolltech falls under that prospect.

    As for now, I have to say that basically 95% of my environment is full with Symbian devices, be it S40 or S60, and I don't see anyone wanting to change. This might be the case for now but everything can change.


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