Nokia : the come-back kids…

Opinions are divided, as they should ;-). Lots of experts see Nokia’s handshake with Microsoft as a complete surrender and guaranteed death sentence, the others see it as a stroke of genius. Let me help you get all the little yellow ducks on a row.

It’s Microsoft. Their operating system populates about every single PC on the planet, and then some. People are using their applications (Outlook, Word, Powerpoint) like there is no tomorrow…. and they happen to have a phone operating system that is neat, fast, and fully integrated in the Microsoft ecosystem. One bummer: Microsoft has no clue how to sell phones abroad. They do not have the retail infrastructure, knowledge or distributor history to pull it off short notice. They do software very well, but apart from X-boxes, a lonely mouse and keyboard, their global box selling capabilities outside the US are fairly limited…

It’s Nokia. The older ones still can remember that Nokia made some of the very best phones ever. Only, lately their operating system got a bit old fashioned, and lost the burning competition with windows mobile, Android, RIM and Apple. But Nokia does know how to make and sell phones.  This is a company that started 160 years ago… as a paper mill! It moved into  rubber, built some darn good Zodiacs, sold floating devices, went into cables and electricity, employed Olympic wrestler Verner Weckman as CEO before getting some historic mobile phones on the shelves. Rambo would grunt that these people are survivors. Liquid adaptable.

With that handshake, Nokia finds direct access to one of the leading and most promising mobile OS systems, and a new go at conquering the US market. Microsoft sizes an opportunity to plant its OS slambam into the coming generation phones from a giant phone manufacturer. Through the deal, Microsoft can also tap directly into the well of Nokia-owned Navteq maps, adding state of the art location based capabilities directly into the ecosystem, and adding a great map and navigation partner to Bing.

You know what? I’ll think they’ll do fine 🙂

Beyond Apps: the ecosystem – the Battle of the Titans

Walking through the endless halls of the Mobile World Congress, you see mobile applications everywhere, ranging from e-health, over facial recognition, location based services and dating to picture apps, and apps juggling with a growing number of social communities.

One might even think it is all about the application. But, admit, that is exactly the same feeling you get while wandering through a supermarket where you have the impression that the battle for the planet is between a handful of price competing cornflakes-brands that struggle for your attention.

We all know the reality of life is that it’s not about the cornflakes. It’s about which supermarket will survive. So it’s safe to think it’s not about applications either.

The magic handshake between Steve Ballmer from Microsoft (clnt), and Stephen Elop from Nokia gives something away that has been preluding war since the dark ages: getting the right ally by your side before rallying the enemy.

The battle for the mobile consumer will not be a battle of devices, or a battle of applications, it will not even be a war of platforms. The very battle for the soul of the mobile consumer and world supremacy will be fought over the ecosystem.

Let’s face it. Heavy consumers do not care about the device as such. Heck, holding Android, Apple, RIM and Win7 together, you barely know what to choose. Same networks, same functionality… and more smartness and megapixels than we can ever use.

And applications? Steve Ballmer almost apologized for only having 8000 apps to choose from today. 8000… how many of those will make a real difference…. 100? It’s also a fact that most users do not even know or care about what operating system their mobile sidekick is packing. They know the brand. But is their HTC now running on Android, or Winmob7? Va savoir…

The consumers are simply looking for the best user experience. And most users like to stay in a trusty environment. So the ecosystem will be where the big players will battle for consumer loyalty; ecosystems, where the ease of use of functionality between the different devices in the consumers’ Personal Area Network will be key. Seamless interaction between mobile phones, tablets, laptops and more heavy desktops is increasingly important, and the ability to juggle data and documents between devices is what differentiates the experience most.

Apple has been working on its ecosystem for a while, HP (clnt) is back into the battle through the cloud-loving Palm OS system, and Android hopes that its open source approach and its mighty brotherhood with Google is the way to go. With Nokia and Microsoft Win7phones joining forces, the next generation of Nokia phones will be able to integrate the Microsoft ecosystem, with features that most users need every single day: like Sharepoint, Office (with Outlook) and the imminent Explorer9. Taking the great user experience of Windows7 PC’s to mobile devices might appeal to more consumers that Apple finds comfortable.

The battle of the ecosystems will be a battle of Giants. As long as user experience benefits from the effort…. I do not care who’s winning ;-).

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