The market is sizzling with comments of the recent Microsoft/Nokia collaboration decisions. Some blog entries estimate that this marriage will be a problem for other OEM vendors using Windows Phone 7 while some blog entries estimate that this decision is very bad for Google. Only time will tell what this will lead to, but from a market research and analysis perspective, the decision what Nokia did is a game changer for the mobile industry. It is now a game of three, as I am not going to count RIM with is BlackBerry platform to be a real contestant going forward. Others agree like can be seen in InformationWeek article.
The decision from RIM to change the operating system for its upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook to be different from the BlackBerry OS6 kills the possibility for success in my mind. Those thousands of BlackBerry apps will have to be rewritten for the new OS unless RIM provides some kind of emulator or converter for its developers. I doubt it. For a software development organization to start working on a platform with diminishing returns is not appealing unless you are really focused on a niche market that requires something that is specific to BlackBerry OS. According to a recent Engadget news bulletin, there will be four different flavors of PlayBook tablet coming out. I have been a BlackBerry user for years due to the unlimited worldwide AT&T data plan that the operator used to offer. Mine is still to keep, but new clients won’t get it. My BlackBerry Torch works nicely, but the question is whether it will keep its competitiveness going forward? Maybe it is time for me to consider something new as well…
The market has also changed to become more mobile, where the requirement of any solution is to be able to be accessed by a mobile device and this is why the market is introducing different mobility devices as well as tablets of different shapes and forms. Here again, it will be an ecosystem play and my personal hope is that Microsoft will also deliver a tablet operating system that will be optimized for tablets with long battery life etc.
One of the main arguments that Nokia and Microsoft gave in their announcement of strategic collaboration was to build a strong ecosystem with different types of ecosystem players. The ZDNet blog entry included following picture that shows how the overall ecosystem thinking that Nokia and Microsoft is looking at.
If you review the picture in greater detail, the mobile device will really become the central hub for both personal and business use which by itself is not anything new. What I think is new is that the ecosystem thinking will push through this time with force and this is what Stephen Elop calls for third ecosystem. The rationale behind this term is that for Nokia and Microsoft to be able to compete with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, this partnership has to really build an ecosystem that encompasses phones, developers, mobile services, partnerships with carriers, and app stores to distribute software. The future is less about hardware and physical devices; it will be more about solutions and how they integrate in both home and business environment.
One of the key issues for Nokia’s poor market share in the US has been the relationships (or the lack of) with carriers and this is where I believe this new partnership will also help. US has been specifically bad for consumers as operators have been able to control what devices they carry and this has not been Nokia’s strenght. I believe this will also change with this new relationship and lead to broader handset selection in local operator stores such as AT&T.
What does it mean for system integrators (SI) and independent software Vendors (ISVs)? It really provides a new opportunity to build innovative solutions to an ecosystem that is far bigger than Microsoft has ever had in the mobility space. Windows Phone 7 is now the principal operating system for the smart phone platform and this also requires Nokia to get Microsoft partners onboard to build solutions to their existing ecosystem. The current Microsoft partner network has skills in many areas that might not exist in the Nokia ecosystem. The same applies the other way around.
Just to review some of the upcoming possibilities or permuations that could potentially drive the business for Nokia development organizations. This change requires a change in development environment to .NET, XNA and Silverlight. Current Microsoft developers can partner with Microsoft partners to form alliances or build pockets of teams like IAMCP (International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners) teaches its partners to do. There are lots of different types of new arrangements and opportunities and following list is by no means comprensive, but gives and idea of the endless permutations that will be part of the future of Microsoft/Nokia ecosystem development.
- Nokia developers migrate their current solutions to support Microsoft technology such as Dynamics CRM, AX, GP, SL etc.
- Current Microsoft mobility partners decide to invest in solutions that they have been thinking of but with the lack of market share, did not decide to do so. Now with the added Nokia ecosystem, the opportunties just became much more lucrative
- Both Microsoft and Nokia developers decide to create innovative solutions that utilize the cloud as foundation. Microsoft brings to bear one of the biggest cloud investment of all times (Windows Azure). Each cloud center costs more than 500 billion to build.
- Microsoft SharePoint partners realize the new mobility opportunity is huge and decide to invest in solution development using Windows Phone and place the solution in Windows Phone Marketplace as an app
- Windows Phone 7 has been positioned initially in the consumer space, but with Nokia stepping to the plate, it will become a serious player in the enterprise mobility space as well.
- System integrators (SI) have a tremendous opportunity to build a Windows Phone practice as the ecosystem now suddenly became much bigger. Also, to some organziations Symbian has just been too cumbersome from development perspective as has been reported by numerous developers and development organizations.
- Solutions are becoming more social and Windows Phone 7 integrates already today with gaming platform and other similar services.
I am sure there are lots of other great opportunities and it will be your own imagination that is the only limitation on what can be done. The development environment is based on Visual Studio 2010 combined with frameworks as XNA. If you decide to include cloud development, Microsoft provides development kits for Windows Azure. Everything is integrated to Visual Studio 2010 whereby the learning curve from one environment to the other is less of a hassle.
The competition to the Microsoft/Nokia collaboration is not standing still. Google with Android and Apple with iPhone are aggressively competing of the same developers and some have even decided to take an unfair approach in soliciting people that are impacted by this strategic relationship like was reported by InfoWorld. The competition has also recognized that platforms and ecosystems are what really matters in the future like was reported by a recent article in Wall Street Journal.
The more I think about this change, the more I see opportunities that entrepreneurs can take advantage of. One should not be naïve, but estimate each decision from a company perspective what is the best way to approach this new strategic relationship. I am convinced that in a few weeks once more information comes available you will see things happening that would not have happened without this Microsoft/Nokia collaboration. And what is most important, consumers will benefit of this move as the competition will increase and developers can focus on building applications and accumulate intellectual property on top of the platforms.