Nokia’s announcement last month that it will give up the MeeGo and Symbian smartphone operating systems in favor of Windows Phone 7 could work if everything falls into place, according to Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler.
“It’s way too early to tell if this [Microsoft-Nokia] partnership will be successful or if anybody, particularly your U.S. and European employees, will care about Nokia smartphones or tablets running Windows Phone 7,” Schadler said a blog post.
Schadler said it all hinges on “ifs”: If they nail the product experience, sign up carriers, quickly roll out a competitively priced tablet, and if they port Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Excel to the tablets and phones running their OS. He added that they also need to build out the app store and sign up the appropriate vendors in order to be relevant to the market.
In an open letter from both Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (provided by Microsoft as response to a request for information on the deal), plans for the strategic partnership were outlined. The companies plan to join their products and expertise to enhance both of their existing strategies for mobile development, including utilizing Nokia’s hardware knowledge, the Bing search engine, Nokia’s mapping technology, and a collective global reach.
Nokia, according to its website, will turn Symbian into a franchise platform, allowing Nokia to retain and sell additional handsets with the operating system before transitioning Symbian-based phones to their new collaborative operating system with Windows Phone 7.
MeeGo will become an open-source platform, similar to the Android OS. Intel, Nokia’s former partner in the MeeGo project, said in a statement at the Mobile World Conference on Feb. 14 that it is committed to the project. Additionally, Intel showcased a MeeGo Tablet User Interface, which “features an intuitive object-oriented interface with panels displaying content and contacts,” according to the company.
Schadler said that while enterprise developers will not be able to go out and immediately use the technology that might be provided by this partnership, they need to monitor its progress.
“You can’t write these companies off. If they can bring SharePoint and Word to tablets, then they’ll be relevant,” he said. “[Enterprise developers] have to watch it closely and consider the possibilities; when you’re thinking about a mobile strategy, be careful not to close yourself off [from Windows Phone OS].”
He added that the important element to make this OS relevant for the enterprise IT world would be to allow Windows Phone to handle the security needs, such as the hardware encryption offered by the iOS system.
“Apple has been on a 10-year journey, and they’ve executed brilliantly,” said Schadler. “Microsoft and Nokia need to execute brilliantly, and they have a lot against them.” He cited their physical distance, their different working styles and the probable unwillingness of employees at both companies to drop all projects currently in production to create this new super OS.
Forrester released a report last month entitled “Nokia and Microsoft Tie the Smartphone Knot,” in which it evaluated this announcement.
The report, written by analysts Ian Fogg and Charles S. Golvin, with J.P. Gownder and Laura Wiramihardja, said that Microsoft and Nokia can both benefit if this is executed properly.
Nokia, the report said, is more than another Windows Phone licensee because of the “unique position…it will be able to shape the future of the Windows Phone 7 software due to the quantity of services that Nokia is contributing to the platform.”
The report also said that Microsoft will be able to leverage those technologies—including the Ovi Store and Navteq, Nokia’s mapping platform—across all of its platforms, including the Xbox.
Both companies, according to the analysts’ report, need to scale, and neither can do so quickly on their own. “Microsoft needs as many handset makers as possible to support Windows Phone 7 to become a leader in the smartphone market. Nokia is committing to placing Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone platform, while every other Windows Phone 7 handset maker is less committed and is using other smartphone software—often Android—alongside it,” the report said.
The report concluded that product strategists do not have to make massive changes today, as “substantive change won’t come until 2012.” According to the report, those building products to compete with Nokia can “ignore the coming wave of products” because they will be Symbian-based for quite some time—neither company has yet announced when they will begin releasing partnership devices.
Additionally, those building applications, the analysts said, should continue to prioritize platforms as they have in the past, with “Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android at the top of the list, [and] BlackBerry, Symbian, webOS and Windows Phone at a distant collective third place.”