Thursday, August 13, 2009 : Nokia and Microsoft shake hands when all's not well

Today the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft on putting Microsoft Office products on Nokia's smartphones was officially announced and it amounted to an acceptance of the primacy of their competitors in the smartphone market. For Microsoft, its Windows Mobile platform doing a rapid catch up could not bring the desired results on its own. Microsoft had to make use of its new datacenters and cloud infrastructure.

Microsoft's crown jewel is the Office franchise and in my view is far more valuable than the OS itself  ( If Office was available on say Linux, people would not mind switching to it ). Microsoft's immediate challenge is to beat back efforts from Google to cut into the office productivity market with its cloud offerings - the Google Apps notwithstanding the fact that Google is nowhere near challenging the Office products. However Microsoft would have been rattled by the slow and steady adoption of Google apps by an ever increasing number of enterprises wanting to reduce costs. This deal coming close on the heels of the search partnership with Yahoo takes the fight straight to Google. This move is a straight hit aimed at Google more than RIM. For Microsoft this will also make a first entry for its products into a open source platform which is what Nokia's phones would be built on be it Symbian or Maemo.

RIM is also losing market by the adoption of iPhone by some enterprises as the smartphone of choice. It has to be seen as to how an innovation leader like RIM would move when faced with such odds. As to Google, it has now seen the moves by Microsoft and Nokia and the company can now plan out its not-much-marketed wireless foray with very known targets. What will hamper the focus Google would want to give its wireless strategy is how far Bing and the new-fangled Yahoo partnership will light a fire under Google for Microsoft.

Nokia on its part was losing market share steadily against RIM and Apple and along with the enterprise segment which was already lost, even the non-enterprise smartphone share was shrinking. Once leading the mobile phone landscape ( and even now with substantial momentum ), Nokia had not done enough to revamp its OS efforts and it shows in the jaded user interface Nokia phones sport model after model. Nokia would expect to buy some time with this deal with Microsoft before it takes a hard look at its OS offerings. Nokia would like to think that having Microsoft Office on its phones is a first major step that would make its OS a favorite with the enterprise customers.

Nokia's stock performance after today's announcement

and how Microsoft fared.

Google's performance

RIMM's performance Nokia - switch to Maemo, "not" ditch Symbian (rumor)

Nokia N800 makes for a great OpenStreetMap vie...Image via Wikipedia

Now Financial Times, Germany speculates about Nokia finally giving up on Symbian as a smartphone platform in favor for Maemo . Maemo, the community developed Linux platform for mobile devices is Nokia's choice for its internet tablets.

FTD goes on the write citing sources close to Nokia about Symbian becoming too complicated a piece of code ( 20 million lines ) and Nokia having to do some contortions to add touch to its N97 flagship model. If this were true Symbian would be confined to low-end phones which Maemo would not fit. The fact about this might out by October, when the N900 smartphone based on Maemo is expected to be released.

Nokia has been steadily losing market share to niche players - RIM, HTC , Android - not to mention Apple. Its North American strategy has also not clicked as it should have. Symbian is great but I thought it would be very easy to customize it until I could not see much of a change in the UI in phone after phone. When all handset makers were really struggling to differentiate the UI and menus, Nokia with its momentum and distribution channels could afford to not do much about it till the iPhone came along. Apple had not only a great UI but also an ecosystem that delivered pure numbers.

Nokia might change the game a little, with Maemo smartphones since it is rather an unknown quantity which will keep the competitors busy to figure out Nokia's strategy. Nokia also has to do spec up the hardware a little like how RIM did with the Blackberry Bold and recently Toshiba with the TG01. If this news turns out to be true, it is good as Nokia can concentrate on a more recently platform and still use Symbian for the large segment of low-end phones.
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Friday, August 7, 2009 : Great options on CDMA handsets

In traditionally GSM markets like India phone users are reluctant to take up CDMA service since it meant that they are restricted to their career in terms of handset choice. CDMA providers. CDMA Development Group (CDG) has taken an initiative over the past year actively to change this scenario with the Open Market Handset. In short, this initiative is to allow buyers of CDMA phones buy the handsets without worrying about which carrier to choose. You can buy any CDMA phone from the retailers and use it with any carrier of your choice. You do not have to stick with the limited choice that used to be the case if you have to choose your carrier first. CDG has chosen the Indian market to pilot this initiative and has done well in the choice. 

If the Open Market Handset initiate gets going in India, it could well be a success anywhere since India is a market where GSM is well-entrenched. India has reached a milestone of 100 million CDMA subscribers and it is just as well that these subscribers finally get the choice they deserve. Handset vendors will also be greatly relieved from having to factor in the carriers at quite an early stage in their development.

Technically, the gizmo which enables this is called the R-UIM, which is the analog of GSM's SIM. When I first encountered the SIM-less handsets of CDMA, initially I was struck by the unimaginative idea of the whole thing, and later on probing came to understand that the vested interest of the carriers was blocking a simple function for the users. Now with mobile number portability (MNP) on the anvil and GSM bloc trying to run away with 3G, CDG has done well to provide the original choice of GSM subscribers to the CDMA lot. All's well that sells well is the golden rule by which this CDG plan of putting more choice in the hands of users will be measured.