Nokia still sells more phones than any other company on the planet. But the company’s market share is rapidly declining and the Symbian smartphone operating system which powers Nokia’s high-end devices has been seriously lagging behind iOS and Android in development. Today Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced the company is going to take pretty drastic action in an attempt to turn things around: it’s dropping Symbian and partnering with Microsoft to design Windows Phone 7 devices.
It sounds like Nokia is also stepping back from its commitment to MeeGo Linux. In other words, Nokia will be dropping two open source mobile operating systems and replacing them with one of the most closed ecosystems available. I’m sure geeks are going to love that.
But the move isn’t really about geeks. It’s about offering phones that appeal to the masses. In recent years the iPhone and a number of Android phones have become the exciting, must-have devices, while Nokia’s offerings in the smartphone space have failed to gain much traction.
Windows Phone seems like a strange choice, because the fledgling operating system is still very young and hasn’t gained much traction either. But that might be exactly why Nokia and Microsoft are working together: they might just need each other. Microsoft benefits by partnering with the biggest phone maker in the world to expand its reach, while Nokia gets to work with the largest software company in the world… one which is trying desperately to make up for the fact that its Windows Mobile operating system hardly changed from 2000 to 2010.
The two companies will work together on development, with Bing powering search results, for instance, and Nokia Maps taking a role in Microsoft’s mobile mapping software. Unlike other device makers, it looks like Microsoft is also offering Nokia the ability to customize all aspects of the Windows Phone 7 experience on the company’s upcoming phones — although Stephen Elop says the company probably won’t go too far in changing things up.
Nokia did consider going with Google Android before committing to Windows Phone 7, but decided against it since the market is already pretty saturated with Android devices.
Nokia will continue to support the 200 million Symbian phones already in use around the globe, and it could take a year or two to make the switch to Windows Phone 7, so Nokia expects to continue shipping Symbian devices for the immediate future.
But as far as MeeGo devices, it looks like Nokia will be taking some of the hardware designed to run MeeGo and repurposing it to run Windows Phone 7 instead.
What do you think? Will you be sad to see Symbian go? Would you buy a Nokia phone running Windows Phone 7?