Today’s deal between Microsoft and Nokia acts as a temporary lifeline for both companies. It gives Microsoft access to the largest handset provider, and it allows Nokia to defray some of its operating system development costs. I have just finished a report, “Mobile App Internet Recasts The Software And Services Landscape,” that will hit the Forrester site on Monday, February 28.
In the report, Forrester states, “The explosion of app innovation that started on the iPhone and then spread to Android devices and tablets will continue to drive tech industry innovation and have far-reaching pricing and go-to-market implications for the industry. Three different vectors of innovation that have been percolating under the surface will combine over the next 3-5 years. Mobile, cloud, and smart computing together will foster a new set of 'intelligence everywhere' apps.”
And based on that research, I believe that deal does not address the biggest issue for both companies – attracting apps and app developers. For Nokia, it now sends the message that Symbian and MeeGo platforms are no longer the long-term app focus. For Microsoft, it creates an eight-to-twelve month void/pause as developers wait to see what the new Nokia hardware looks like.
At the current rate that Apple and Android are recruiting third-party and enterprise app developers, this could mean a gap of 100,000-200,000 applications by the time the first Nokia Windows Phone device ships. This is likely a lead that even the combined resources of Microsoft and Nokia could not bridge.
There were two important pieces of Nokia news of interest to mobile platform developer partners leaked today. First, Nokia’s MeeGo platform, designed to replace Symbian, will likely be killed before ever reaching the market. Second, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop purportedly sent a 1,300 word memo to all Nokia employees that includes key sections such as: “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning”; and “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”
This dovetails with what we predicted in a November 2010 report, “The Feeding Frenzy Over The Mobile Developer Channel,” in that it would not be the quality of the underlying platform software (Nokia has remained strong there), but the ease of development, viability of the platform, size of the market, and availability of distribution channels that would settle the mobile platform battle. In all of these factors, Nokia has been steadily falling behind its competitors, led by Apple (iOS), Google (Android), and Microsoft (Windows Phone).