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The Verdict: Thumbs Down for Nokia Windows OS Move

Did {complink 3847|Nokia Corp.} make the wrong move in adopting the Microsoft Window's operating system rather than the Android from Google? It may be years before we can know definitively whether Stephen Elop, Nokia's CEO, should have steered the Finnish company towards Android instead of Windows OS.

In fact, it may be impossible to conclude either way unless Nokia fails miserably to turn itself around and the Windows OS move is seen as pivotal to that turnaround strategy. (See: Nok-Win a No-Win Combination.)

For Nokia's sake, let's hope EBN readers (and its editor-in-chief) are wrong. Readers responding to a poll on EBN overwhelmingly said they believe Android would have been a better choice for Nokia than Windows OS. As of midday on Monday, Feb. 28, approximately 60 percent of respondents, or 197 people out of 328, said they disagreed with Elop's decision. Slightly less than one quarter of respondents — 23 percent, or 75 people — agreed with his choice, while about 17 percent, or 56 respondents, were unsure. (See: What’s Best for Nokia?)

I was fascinated by the number of people who picked “don't know” as their answer. This is the highest number of respondents on a percentage basis who have expressed uncertainty on any question since EBN began fielding polls in the third quarter of 2010. Such a level of uncertainty about Nokia's move is not too surprising, though, considering the subject: It reflects the conflict facing the market as companies battle for the hearts and minds of consumers in the smartphone and mobile computing devices market.

Until now, hardware had reigned supreme, with companies distinguishing themselves on the basis of such metrics as design, aesthetics, processor speed, lightness, and slimness to attract consumers. While all these are still important, it seems the software interface — or the attractiveness offered by the operating system — has become the main factor considered by buyers. Consumers expect to be tempted by the hardware, but the transaction clincher is now the software.

Obviously, Nokia executives believe Symbian, the operating system the company was loading on its phones previously, was not delivering the desired results. The EBN readers who object to Nokia's selection of Windows OS over Android don't have any empirical grounding for their view and may be proven wrong in future.

Still, Nokia should pay attention to polls like this and similar comments from the investment community. The company should not limit itself to Symbian, Windows OS, or Android. Sure, the Apple iOS is not available, but there's nothing stopping the company from offering both Android and Windows devices — and let the customers choose what they want. This won't necessarily jack up Nokia's expenses, since Google and Microsoft are bearing the majority of development costs for their respective operating systems.

Some of Nokia's rivals, including Samsung, have not shackled themselves to one operating system; they sell both Windows OS-based devices and Android-based devices. Maybe that's what EBN readers in the “don't know” column would prefer.

18 comments on “The Verdict: Thumbs Down for Nokia Windows OS Move

  1. AnalyzeThis
    February 28, 2011

    I agree that I'm sure that plenty of the “Don't knows” would have preferred that Nokia offer both Windows and Android phones, but I have another theory on why it was easy to vote “Don't know:” there is no obvious “right” choice here.

    Yes, Nokia could have adopted Android. Great. But now what? There's a ton of Android phones out there. How would they differentiate themselves? And would this really solve all their problems? No, not really.

    At least with Windows they're slightly “unique,” but then again there are numerous and obvious downsides to this strategy which have been discussed in-depth in earlier comment threads.

    While I think the majority of people agree that Symbian had to go, the choice of Windows vs. Android I think is a toss-up in the minds of many.

    And if you're 50/50 or even 60/40 on something, it's very easy to shrug your shoulders and say, “I don't know.”

  2. Backorder
    February 28, 2011

    Bolaji,

    You mention that readers dont have any empirical grounding for the verdict. How about the growth of different mobile OS. If the present market share was anything to go by, there was no reason to move away from Symbian. They could have tried to leverage the existing hold and customer loyalty. If growth was the factor, Android beats WindowsOS. Sounds empirical enough?

  3. bolaji ojo
    February 28, 2011

    Backorder, I am similarly trying to understand Nokia's justification for dumping Symbian — which had a higher market share — for Windows OS, which was actually declining in market share. I assume Stephen Elop was more interested in the billions in R&D dollar Microsoft had promised. So, we do not disagree as far as whether Nokia should have either stayed with Symbian or adopt Google Android.

    On the subject of emprical evidence, I was actually referring to the vote on the site. There's no way anyone can say with certainty today whether or not Nokia's decision was a smart one. The company chose Windows OS over Android and that was what the poll was about. Was this the company's smartest move? I don't know because there's no way anyone — not even CEO Elop — can be certain. A few years from now we will have the empirical data in sales returns from Nokia. Even so, we may still never be sure that if Nokia had gone the other way — stayed with Symbian or use Android — it would have done better or worse.

    The more critical issue is what you implied in your response. Did Nokia need this change that urgently and could the company have put more efforts into Symbian? Should it have even opened this can of worms? Based on my admittedly limited knowledge of corporate reorganization, Nokia employees, suppliers, third-party partners, independent designers, etc., must be wondering what hit them. This is a sea change Stephen Elop has decided to engineer and not even he can tell me for sure he knows how this will play out. That's the only fact I can place a bet on.

  4. Taimoor Zubar
    February 28, 2011

    While there may not be much for Nokia in this deal, I feel there's a lot for Microsoft in it. Microsoft's success in the mobile OS market has not been that great. A big reason for this has been the fact that they could not find good hardware platforms for their OS. I think Nokia will provide a solid hardware platform to MS and I think MS will benefit more out of this deal than Nokia will.

  5. DataCrunch
    February 28, 2011

    I may be the minority here, but I feel (although a gut feel at this point) that the Win-Nok deal is a positive for both companies.  It is way to early to write off Nokia as a leading provider of mobile device hardware and it is way too early to write off Microsoft, the leading software company, as a player in the mobile space.  I think we are in store for a lot of surprises.  These two companies could not be more serious about the mobile space and the stakes could not be higher.

  6. jbond
    February 28, 2011

     

    I think that Microsoft was definitely the winner coming out of this. They gained more exposure with a worldwide company that is looking at doing anything it can to regain lost ground. Nokia had to choose a new OS, preferably one from a company willing to spend millions in research. Microsoft will gain more users through Nokia than it would through its Windows Phones. Hopefully the gamble will pay off for Nokia. We as consumers benefit more by having viable choices rather than dealing with a monopoly. 

  7. Mydesign
    February 28, 2011

       Bolaji, Nokia is a major player in mobile sector and they played well with Symbian. Now more and more new comers are coming to the market with advance features and facilities. More over nokia knows well that, Android based smart phones are going to be a big hit in market and more competition for them in coming years, which will end up in losing Nokia’s grip over the market. That means the competition becomes tighter in coming day.  So in order to beat such market movements, they have to fight like anything. As a part of this strategy, they are trying for different options like collaboration with Microsoft for a period of 2 years (more or less like an experimental). I think Microsoft was going to be the winner from such dealings, by getting more exposure for their OS through a leading player like Nokia.

         In my personal opinion, like Samsung having smart phone with windows OS & Android, Nokia also have to bring products with multiple OS and platforms. Nokia can also develop a new OS, which can superior to the existing one, by spend some  money for research. Finally everybody’s ultimate aim is to retain the market share.

  8. Adeniji Kayode
    March 1, 2011

    I share your opinion  Dave. Considering the global impact  of both Microsoft and Nokia,i feel they should come out with something good and i also don,t see any of them losing out in the deal.

  9. Anand
    March 1, 2011

    Bolaji,

     I totally agree with your point that Nokia should not limit itself to Symbian, Windows OS, or Android. The more the OS diversity Nokia provides, the more it will get the  customers. Infact I am of the opinion that Nokia should have adopted Android couple of years back when Android  OS got thumbs up from the user community. I felt Nokia was too confident of itself and wanted to proove to the world that what matters is hardware brand and not the OS, but alas it totally got it wrong. As you mentioned “Consumers expect to be tempted by the hardware, but the transaction clincher is now the software”. This is because most of the Smart phones available in the market provides almost the same hardware configuration(w.r.t end user it doesnt matter if its 700Mhz or 1Ghz processor). There is very less to choose between different brand Smart phones. I guess this is where the OS plays a crucial role. No doubt android smartphones will emerge as an alternative to i-phones but needs to be seen if Nok-Win will have any impact.

  10. elctrnx_lyf
    March 3, 2011

    I think Nokia will support multiple OS for their smartphones to actually tap the interests of the consumers worldwide. It is not an easy task for Nokia but some how they have to find a right strtegy to actually support more than a single opertating systems on their mobiles. I think any user will like it. Probably mobile chipset providers also will be looking at the options of allowing multiple OS support for their products.

  11. t.alex
    March 6, 2011

    Nowadays it seems what differentiates one OS from another is the top-level applications that can bring in exciting user-experience. I believe there may be some factors that prevent Nokia from deciding on Android.

  12. itguyphil
    March 6, 2011

    Probably the fact that the Nokia chief used to work for Microsoft and had a leg up on the mobile roadmap. Also, Android most likely had some platform-based inefficiencies (I've seen it on forums…) that Nokia did not want to dive into at this point.

  13. t.alex
    March 6, 2011

    Perhaps due to the fact that Android is still growing and growing everyday (every 6 months new release), which makes it not a good choice. All the issues of compatibility, stability will come up along the way.

  14. itguyphil
    March 6, 2011

    That too. Also, maybe while he was at Microsoft, he picked up the anti-Google bug.

  15. itguyphil
    March 12, 2011

    I mean it might be good for his image if he publicly pondered a partnership with Google but I guess he was about business and wanted to get straight to work with the platform he chose…MSFT.

  16. t.alex
    March 19, 2011

    Yah.. I guess this more of a persnal and career choice rather than a good business decison.

  17. saranyatil
    March 19, 2011

    Now its time for Nokia to catch up and evolve smart in the smart phone market with all other normal phones workin smart.

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