Nokia has a healthy working relationship with Microsoft, and the partnership has been growing over the past few years. Recent initiatives include:
- Microsoft Office Mobile Suite for Symbian.
- Microsoft Sliverlight for Symbian.
- The Nokia Booklet, a 3G netbook based on Windows 7.
On the organization front, Stephen Elop, a Microsoft veteran, took over the helms at Nokia earlier this year, bringing both companies closer than ever. While Sliverlight, Microsoft Office, and Windows 7 netbook initiatives are all signs of a healthy partnership, embracing the WP7 platform in its totality takes the relationship to the next level. Shifting the building blocks of your device/software/service ecosystem in favor of third parties is no small decision and will have effect on your intangible sub-brand assets such as Ovi. And that exactly is the rumor from this week, that Nokia will launch WP7 devices in 2011. While we have no official version of the story, it would be interesting to assess the impact of such a partnership in the market. On the positive side, Nokia’s industrial design, distribution and supply chain process are among the best in the industry. WP7 will gain a strong partner in Nokia to bring the best-in-class devices among Windows Phone series. But how much of an impact it will have on Nokia’s platform portfolio, positioning and regional priorities? Where WP7 sits in Nokia’s portfolio? Given the base set of high-end hardware requirements for WP7, the Nokia WP7 device will be positioned in the same premium space occupied by the MeeGo platform. Will Nokia abandon the MeeGo platform in favor of WP7? Or are they going to co-exist, with WP7 focusing on the prosumer and business segments along the same lines of the S60 E-Series? Will there be any major shift in regional platform trends? USA: With an estimated 6% marketshare in 2010 (nearly all basic and featurephones), Nokia has been steadily losing marketshare and carrier shelf space in the US. The partnership is unlikely to change the competitive landscape in the US market, where Apple, HTC, Motorola and Samsung lead the operator shelves. WP7 LTE phones in H2 2011 / H1 2012 might be a potential option for Nokia to make inroads in the US. Western Europe: Microsoft will find more acceptance in carrier channels through Nokia in Western Europe. But beyond the “foot in the door” strategy, the partnership will have to do little with the success of the platform. In emerging markets, where Nokia has the broadest reach in mid-tier smartphones, the WP7 will be not be the obvious choice for the cost sensitive segments. We believe Nokia will continue to rely on the S60 platform in the mid-tier smartphone segment. Overall, while the idea of a Nokia WP7 device looks like a big win for Microsoft, it’s unlikely to change the prospects of Nokia or WP7 in the smartphone department. Nevertheless, Nokia needs to raise its profile in the US, and this would be a step in the right direction, but it will need step-changes in distribution and subsidies. But for the most part, it’s going to be just another partnership for Microsoft and Nokia – you’re only as strong as your weakest link. - Bonny Joy