Disclosure: I am a former global Chairman for International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (http://www.iamcp.org) that according to IDC 2009 study had $10,1 billion in partner-to-partner business. My views might be biased due to two factors: I am a Finn living in the US and earn 100% of my revenue from the Microsoft ecosystem. This blog entry is about the possibilities for Microsoft and Nokia, and not about the past mistakes that might have been made.
The much speculated announcement from Nokia and Microsoft is now reality. Nokia and Microsoft have announced a new strategic partnership to build a new global mobile ecosystem. This news item has been dwelled in the cyberspace such as PCMag.com, blogs such as Mary-Jo Foley All about Microsoft and some newspapers such as Financial Times questioning whether Elop is the right person to lead Nokia. The rumbling of Nokia’s strategy accelerated to full force after Stephen Elop’s internal memo was leaked to the public. This memo included strong words about Symbian and how it was burning and it was time to jump ship. I have commented on Nokia in some of my previous blog entries but today and going forward, I am going to focus on future possibilities and not dwell on the past as this does not bring anybody any good.
This announcement from Microsoft and Nokia is not just a major and dramatic shift for Nokia, but also for the entire Finnish business ecosystem. Based on the Finnish news sources, this is the biggest change that Finland has seen in the technology landscape since the changes that took place in traditional industry such as forest, metal and shipbuilding. I feel sorry for the thousands of Nokia employees and hundreds or even thousands of companies that have earned their living from Nokia and its ecosystem. I have in fact been Chairman of the Board for one company and Nokia was a very important source of living for the company. However, each and every one of us has to admit that this did not happen overnight, the writing was on the wall and Stephen Elop just happened to be the one that had to make this change.
I have been tracking the discussions in the cyberspace and this announcement has caused emotions, both negative as well as positive. I believe that Nokia to Finland is like Volvo for Swedes and it has to do with national identify and when that gets threatened, people react in different ways, some probably without really thinking about the consequences of what they say, and some more realistic and with the future in mind.
I have had a chance to track the evolution of Nokia story from a US perspective during the past 13 years and I have to say it has been depressing to see Nokia and the Nokia brand sink among US consumers and businesses. Already a few years ago it was almost impossible to find a nice Nokia phone in local AT&T store and this should have been a sign already then that something was wrong. One could argue that the current Chairman of the Board Jorma Ollila should have seen the signs on the wall when he was the CEO or at the very latest during Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo’s tenure. He did not, or if he did, the board and the management team did not take the risk of changing the course.
The current Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was the one that was forced to stop the bleeding of Nokia’s market share in the smartphone space and he is now the one that is taking the heat from the press and industry analysts. I do not think it is fair to put this on his shoulders as Nokia has had ample chances to change the course during the past few years or at the very latest when the first iPhone was released in in 2007.
When I saw the Meego leader Ari Jaaksi leave Nokia a few months ago to lead HP Palm software to become senior vice president of WebOS, I smelled problems in the future of Meego. This is obviously bad news for the companies that have invested in Meego development and future, but that is unfortunately nothing new in the technology field. During my career, my company had to invest in APPC communication protocol development that nobody remembers today. Nobody asked me how I felt when APPC was replaced with TCP/IP.
Once the companies and Nokia employees that have put their lives into Symbian and application development around Symbian have spent some time to reflect what they want to do going forward, I would like to encourage them to view Microsoft as an opportunity for them to change direction and get really to become a part of Microsoft huge 600k plus partner ecosystem. That is what we entrepreneurs do all the time. We have to review our business model, its robustness and change it when needed. We will never let outside forces let to drive our future; we need to be in charge of it. If your current revenue model is 100% from Symbian, you are the one responsible for it and you can’t blame Nokia or Microsoft for it. Running a business on one horse is both stupid and risky and not good for shareholders. In some cases it can reward you, but in some other cases it can also take you down. You have to be on watch what happens around you and the day when you start ignoring the outside world, things start falling apart and this is exactly what happened to Nokia.
I have seen some misrepresentation in some blog entries that Microsoft would not be partner friendly which is a misrepresentation of huge measures. Microsoft partner network generates more than 90% of Microsoft annual revenue. Bring me another company that would do that with its partners. Microsoft has of course individuals that might in some cases have hurt some partners, but overall Microsoft has a strategy to work with its partners, not against its partners.
When I look at the Microsoft ecosystem and what is happening today from a technological perspective the cloud and the mobility are the two current topics that everybody seems to be talking about. Look at what is happening with our youth. They assume to be able to consume services from the cloud and they are born with smartphones and know how to utilize them effectively by using messenger and SMS. What does this mean for Microsoft and Nokia? Microsoft has more than 30.000 Windows Azure clients and an ecosystem building cloud solutions. These cloud solutions need mobility applications and this is where I see the thousands of current Symbian developers to have a huge opportunity if they so want to see it. It is going to be a change that they have to take and any change will hurt and be difficult but without change and pain, there is no gain. There are thousands of Microsoft partners that are more than willing to partner with mobility professionals and once the mourning is over, it is time to jump on the bandwagon of cloud and mobility and start building new innovative solutions.
I would encourage all current Symbian developers and vendors focusing on Symbian to look at what Microsoft brings to the table and the opportunities that it brings to these companies. We know that Symbian is not the nicest development environment to work with and based on developer experiences, Microsoft development tools and environment will be better and more productive. Yet again, there are many different opinions on this as well, but I am basing my opinion on the tens and hundreds of developers and people that I have talked and worked with.
I would also encourage both existing Microsoft partners and Nokia development partners to get together and IAMCP.org is an example of an organization that can facilitate partner-to-partner collaboration. IAMCP has chapters and chapter meetings every day in some part of the world and this gives a tremendous opportunity to get a view of what it is to be partnered with Microsoft. I would also encourage to ignore the ones that are resistant to the change as the change has already happened and the ones that will prevail are the ones that takes this moment as an opportunity to grow and build a new sustainable business.
I rest my case and welcome all Nokia developers to learn what it is to be part of the Microsoft ecosystem.