As expected, Nokia and Microsoft just announced their plans to partner up in the mobile space, as Windows Phone 7 will become the main operating system on Nokia's smartphones, combining Microsoft's resources and software expertise with Nokia's masterful ability to design and manufacture hardware.
In the announcement, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said they plan to collaborate with Microsoft in various ways. But the handset/OS alliance comes first:
Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.
Drive and define. From the sounds of that, Nokia might have a direct say in determining what goes into a WP7 handset on a universal level. It also sounds like there will be more mid-range and budget WP7 devices.
But aside from featuring WP7 on Nokia handsets, the two companies are partnering in other ways: Bing will become the primary search engine on all Nokia phones, Nokia Maps will become the primary mapping technology used by Microsoft and Nokia says their billing agreements with operators will help WP7 access markets that other platforms have yet to tap.
Most importantly, Elop maintains they have a sense of urgency about turning things around:
Success requires speed. We will be swift.
Between this quote and Elop's memo earlier this week, Nokia is making a single, focused statement. Game on.
But can two separate companies pull together to create a truly cohesive, kick-ass product in a short time frame?
Sure, partnering had a certain allure to it. But Nokia's coupling with Microsoft ultimately makes more sense. Looking past the fact that Elop served as a senior exec at Microsoft not so long ago, both companies really need each other. This is a necessary move for Nokia, who is hemorrhaging market share by the second due to shoddy software experiences. It's a beneficial move for Microsoft, who is trying to claw their way back into the smartphone race against Apple and Google, but hasn't yet made the impact they'd hoped for in any regional market.
Even if Nokia's influence is shrinking, they still move far too many units for WP7 to become irrelevant anytime soon. In fact, for the time being, this was the best possible move Microsoft could have made. They get a brilliant hardware manufacturer with tons of experience dealing in international markets that is ready to really collaborate. And unlike HTC, they don't have to worry about other mobile platforms using the same Nokia hardware, except for maybe MeeGo (which is still alive, according to Nokia, but basically seems DOA). This could be exciting. Let's see what happens.