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Tom Simonite

A View from Tom Simonite

Nokia and Microsoft: Two Giant Turkeys or a New Force in Mobile?

Rounding up reaction to the news that the companies will collaborate on smart phones.

  • February 11, 2011

“Two turkeys do not make an Eagle”

So tweeted Google VP Vic Gundotra earlier this week, casting judgment on what was then just a widespread rumor but was today confirmed: Finnish phone maker Nokia will be teaming up with Microsoft to take on the smart phone market. Nokia’s storied mobile operating system, Symbian, will be scrapped and Nokia handsets will be built around Windows Phone 7 instead.

Despite generally good reviews, Microsoft’s new assault on the phone market hasn’t taken off as they or handset makers had hoped. And Nokia, which remains the world’s largest phone maker, has failed to come up with a smart phone capable of competing with Android handsets or the iPhone.

It’s too early to know what kind of devices the new pairing will come up with. But Engadget reports Nokia saying they will be aimed at the very top of the market: they’re trying to create gadgets that steal the thunder of the iPhone and the most powerful Android handsets.

The end result, said Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop, is that the smart phone market would now be a “three horse race.”

In fact, choosing a new smart phone may be about to get even more complex: Intel and HP are in this race too.

Nokia may have now picked Windows, but in the last two years it had been working with Intel on the MeeGo mobile OS, designed to run on everything from phones to tablets to TVs. Intel now says it will go it alone and that MeeGo devices are still coming. And just two days ago HP refreshed its WebOS software for mobile devices, showing off a tablet and two phones that use the platform.

However, if the iPhone has taught us anything it is that success requires more than phones with good hardware and software, points out ubiqui-blogger Robert Scoble:

“Nothing matters in this world more than apps…HP execs know this. Google’s execs know this. Everyone in Silicon Valley knows this. Apps are the ONLY thing that matters now.”

Scoble thinks that the combination of Nokia’s established ability to make good hardware with Microsoft’s operating system might tempt app makers enough to see the new partnership succeed.

Today’s announcements from the two main actors have been largely directed at the tech industry, investors and the business press. Expect the focus to shift to app developers and consumers - arguably the two groups most able to make or break this new effort - as Nokia and Microsoft try to make their strategy stick.

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