By Brandon Miniman | February 11, 2011 8:55 AM
If you’re reading this site, you’d likely bill yourself as a smartphone enthusiast. You like how technology has transformed your life by bringing powerful pocket-sized mini computers into vogue. You get excited by new twists and turns in the smartphone industry: new operating systems, better screens, multi-core CPUs, video chat, and transformative apps that bring power to your hands wherever you are.
The Nokia/Microsoft partnership is a huge win for people like us. Let’s dissect this big piece of news. And by the way, in case you missed it, be sure you check out the full video recording of the press conference that took place today.
Microsoft has made it clear that it’s in the smartphone game for the “long haul.” They use that language because they know that gaining market share with Windows Phone 7 isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, it might take many years, as formidable competition from Google and Apple keep the company from resting on its laurels. For Microsoft, a very profit-focused enterprise with a stock price that hasn’t moved much in the past decade, finding a catalyst to accelerate penetration of Windows Phone 7 is extremely important. In fact, numerous times words like “accelerate”, “faster”, and “aggressive” were used to describe the effect of this partnership on Windows Phone 7′s progress in the marketplace. Microsoft is serious about making things happen sooner. And they need to be in this hyper-competitive industry.
But they’ve been in a difficult spot to find a catalyst. Their hardware partners–HTC, LG, Dell, and Samsung–are doing their best by making solid hardware for the new platform. But these four companies aren’t going to exert tremendous resources on Windows Phone 7 and deliver earth-shattering innovation, because that’s too risky. Windows Phone 7 is still unproven, and all four hardware partners also are heavily invested in Android, a platform that already has a robust and proven track record. Just look at the Windows Phone 7 launch hardware: while a lot of it was pretty stellar (the Samsung Focus is still our favorite, and the HTC 7 Pro is darn cool), they were generally conservative devices.
So then, this puts Microsoft in a difficult spot. Luckily for them, Nokia is also in a difficult spot. While Nokia is still the number one phone OEM in the world, they’re at a point where that position cannot be maintained unless they innovate big and bring to market products that actually compete with the iPhones and Tegra-2 powered Androids that are out there. With Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone platform, it can quickly migrate to a strategy that already includes an ecosystem of developers, enthusiasts, and services. It’s a no brainer.
So why is this partnership a huge for you? Assuming that the partnership goes well, we’re likely to see “iconic hardware” from Nokia that will run Windows Phone 7, according to Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop. Nokia makes strong hardware. Their limiting factor has been software. Without having to focus on software as much as they have in the past, they’ll be able to devote vastly more company resources (with a smaller workforce, we should add) into developing truly compelling hardware. When companies make fantastic products in industries as competitive as this, competition is stirred, and the consumer wins with falling prices and a wave of innovation.
What would a Nokia Windows Phone 7 look like, and how could it be “iconic”? Look for world-class imaging (the Nokia N8 takes some of the best pictures), beautiful devices with real metal construction, and form factors that challenge your idea of what a smartphone can be.
Some might say that this partnership will alienate Microsoft’s already-established hardware partners. That’s unlikely to be the case. The rising tide lifts all ships. Nokia is a respected company, and if they deliver on their promise to deliver big wins for Windows Phone 7, it’s going to drastically strengthen the Windows Phone brand. This will eliminate hesitance from “the four” to invest big in Windows Phone 7, which is likely to usher in a wave of excitement for the platform.
Today is a big day for smartphone enthusiasts.