I get the very distinct impression that MicroNokia are not setting themselves up to compete against Apple, but much rather primarily against Google’s Android. Largely, this is because again we’re seeing a split between hardware and software companies. In splitting apart those kinds of development, they are at a disadvantage to bring about the same quality of user experience as Apple shows the world as attainable. That’s also why the PlayBook and the new HP TouchPad are, to me, more likely to work well – because they are enabling themselves to just focus on what the entire package delivers to the user and do not have to compromise for their technology partner that they have decided their fate to be linked with.
And, whilst we are at it, I’m idly curious as to whether the folding of the talks between Google and Nokia was in any way relevant to Eric Schmidt giving up the CEO role at Google. Of course, one can envision that the talks between Google and Nokia were much more one-sided: Google can negotiate from a position of strength in the smartphone market; they see no necessity to bring on board a vendor who has good device knowledge. After being publicly ridiculed for the Kin and never really being successful in the smartphone market, was probably more egalitarian in the relationship. Much as I can understand that position, it also shows the fate the two companies do share in the smartphone arena and it holds little promise to how they might move forward together. That Elop was a Microsoftie and knows the culture of the company well is also something not to be forgotten. And I think that after the lack of success in delivering a Linux deliverable even though they had been at it for a while (anybody remember the Nokia N700?) might also have been a factor. If you can’t trust your inhouse Linux people to get something reliable out the door, why should they be able to do based on somebody else’s Linux-based smartphone stack?
What I am curious about, now, will be the third-party developer strategy – and that’s the very point where the interests of the two technology partners are not well-aligned. Nokia will want the developers to have their products run exclusively on Nokia devices, and will probably work hard to have a competitive advantage over other WP7 products in User Interface and probably other APIs. (They need to – they’ve already sold out Search, Maps and other key components to be the same as with the other WP7 vendors.) Microsoft, on the other hand, should have in mind to not let the platform fragment too much, or else they will also draw bad blood from their development base. The people who have stuff in the Ovi store these days are burnt anyway, because they need to completely write off those investments and, in the worst case, get their eyes set on an entirely new ecosystem. (Of course, Nokia could be providing transitioning tools, or a HAL that allows for Symbian apps to run on WP7, but I’m not sure that the phones will be up to that kind of tasks.) And as Sun learned in the transition from SunOS 4 to Solaris: Developers having their apps broken do not respond kindly.
So these will be interesting times ahead indeed. But I’m sceptic that the new Nokia Windows phones will really get that kind of market traction that other platforms enjoy.