My esteemed colleague, Stephen Schenck, wrote yesterday that by the time Windows Phone 9, or whatever it will be called, comes out Nokia may be the only player left at the Windows Phone blackjack table. It got me to thinking – it’s not completely crazy and could easily happen.
Nokia enjoys a special relationship with Microsoft – a sort of friends with benefits kind of relationship. Microsoft pays Nokia, Nokia pays Microsoft, Nokia puts together a nice little perk package in Windows Phone 8, most notably Here, the artist formerly known as “Maps”. Nokia has also spearheaded major efforts to bring more and more apps to the Windows Phone 8 platform with their Dvlup and Nokia developer ambassador program. I personally have and know quite a few developers who have benefited from this program in the form of a free phone.
Long Live The King
Given all this, if there is a company that deserves to be the last OEM voted off the island, it is Nokia. Don’t get me wrong, HTC and Samsung have both brought very slick hardware to the platform themselves, but clearly their eyes have long since wandered in the direction of the robot. Other manufacturers have brought luke-warm efforts to the fray but have also since left for more robotic pastures. But is all this just evidence that Nokia is fighting a losing battle?
Nokia is the king of Windows Phone in the same way that Samsung is the current king of Android. Samsung however now has a pretty beefy challenger in HTC, who brought forth a superb phone in the HTC One. Samsung has been criticized for their Galaxy S4 offering because of this, and one hopes they will step up their game next time around. But who is around to see to it that Nokia steps up their game?
Innovate Or Die
Multiple OEMs bring a reason to differentiate and innovate. Nokia owns 80% on the Windows Phone market with the HTC 8x as its closest competition. And by “closest”, I mean like how Mars is the closest planet to us and it still takes 7 months to get there. Nokia has done a lot to push this platform forward and give people reason to sit up and notice, but more choice for consumers is a good thing.
Android first made inroads into the mobile market space with Verizon’s and Motorola’s DROID campaign. But they sustained success by flooding the market with android devices from every conceivable OEM. My dog was in the process of manufacturing her own Android device at one point, and she even cut me out of the design cycle if you can believe that.
I don’t anticipate a flood of Windows Phones coming to market every other week for the next two years, but other OEMs picking up the Windows Phone torch not only drive innovation on Nokia’s part, but also shows confidence in the platform. If so many players including Dell, ZTE, Huawei, HTC, and Samsung have all moved on, what does that say about the platform itself? What does it say about Nokia?
The Good Ol’ Days
I personally would love to see a return to the days when there were many compelling Windows Phones to choose from. I would love to see other form factors, and fresh ideas brought to the table. I long for a Dell Venue Pro type of portrait slider device – Ok, I admit, I just miss Palm – but still.
Again, this is not a knock against Nokia. The Lumia 920 is a beautiful device with a great camera and form factor. Nokia has a long history of beautiful and innovative hardware and I’ll reiterate if anyone deserves to be the proud papa of this baby, it is Nokia.
But what is it that has made other OEMs push away from the table and what could bring them back? Is it simply the lack of market share? If that’s the case, Nokia’s got a big job ahead of them. Is it Nokia’s dominance that’s scaring the others off? Is it perhaps Nokia’s “special relationship” with Microsoft that’s making other OEMs simply choose not to play? Whatever it is, here’s hoping those obstacles can be overcome so more players can come to the hall and we can get a whole orchestra going instead of just one virtuoso.