Nokia takes lead role in mobile drama

Nokia Corp., after a long-losing battle with its Symbian-based devices, announced in February its choice of Windows Phone 7 in an effort to compete against Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android.

The Finnish smart phone maker’s decision to adopt Microsoft Corp.’s mobile OS for its ailing smart phones took on the air of well-written theatre complete with anguish, suspense and, finally, perseverance. In case you missed the performance, here it is:

Act One:
Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop sets the nail-biting prologue two days ahead of a planned strategy announcement in what was like a soliloquy to employees that likened the company’s dire situation to “standing on a burning platform.”

In an internal memo, Elop describes Nokia as a company that has lost precious market share, mind share and time with its “non-competitive” Symbian. The company is now at a critical cross-roads and must sink or swim, laments Elop: “As a result, if we continue like before, we will get further and further behind.”

Act Two:
Nokia’s choice of Windows over Android is unveiled following a period of suspense during which its employees and industry pundits the world over speculate on the outcome. Elop explains the decision: Android is a commodity market. Research in Motion Ltd. isn’t even a contender.
Act Three:
In a dramatic move, Nokia chooses to persevere instead of dying in the raging flames of the burning platform. It emerges to triumphantly state that it will transform itself anew! This means a company re-structuring as of Apr. 1.

But in an attempt to save itself, Nokia perhaps takes on the role of the filthy villain in the eyes of the Symbian developer community suddenly abandoned by the switch to Windows.

While Nokia promises to help the community develop on Windows, the company will not port its Qt app developer framework with which is compatible 50 million of the 200 million Symbian phones out there.


What does this mean for the enterprise user? For one, it’s debatable whether Windows Phone 7 is ready for a spot in the enterprise. The BlackBerry is already entrenched in the business, and the iPhone and iPad are rapidly winning popularity and demonstrating value for tasks such as collaborative teamwork.

The Windows phone’s lack of on-device encryption as well as the inability to download apps other than from the Windows Marketplace is an aversion for some. On the flip side, it does present a good set of productivity apps for the business user.

But IT admins will be happy to know Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently hinted at adding more features to Windows Phone 7. One can guess those will, in part, be management capabilities to help enterprises handle Windows Phone 7 amid other operating systems as users increasingly bring their own devices to work.

The other question is whether business users will even want a Windows phone over a BlackBerry, Apple or Android device. But perhaps Nokia’s hardware will help lure potential users to its device.

Alas, time will tell if Nokia’s choice to go down the Windows path will lead to success in this drama. During the two days of speculation, Nokia’s shares rose four per cent. So, the device maker may emerge victorious. But it could also find itself again making an anguished soliloquy, lamenting another bad choice.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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