Saturday, February 12, 2011; A12
Nokia to adopt Microsoft's Windows Phone 7
A company that once stood atop the mobile-phone market is throwing in its lot with . . . another company that once stood atop the mobile-phone market. Nokia announced Saturday morning that it will adopt Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software in place of its homegrown Symbian. In the bargain, Nokia will contribute some of its own software and hardware, such as mapping technologies, to the smartphone operating system Microsoft launched last year to replace the failed Windows Mobile.
A Microsoft news release and an open letter from Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop and his Microsoft counterpart, Steve Ballmer, outline the deal.
But the document you should read first is the memo Elop sent to Nokia employees earlier, which Engadget.com posted Tuesday. Elop tells his employees - in language rarely used by executives anxious to keep their jobs - that they've been doing it wrong for too many years.
The memo - which opened with a cheery anecdote about a North Sea oil-rig worker who had to choose between burning to death as a fire swept across his rig's platform or jumping into the freezing ocean almost 100 feet below - concluded "Nokia, our platform is burning."
In this case, Nokia is jumping, leaving its Symbian platform to sink. A second software system, the Linux-based MeeGo it has been developing with Intel for use on tablets and other gadgets, looks to become a side project at best.
At a briefing in London, Elop told reporters that Nokia also considered Google's Android but didn't think it could differentiate its phones from all the other Android hardware on the market and on the way. Elop suggested that Nokia's arrangement with Microsoft gives it more latitude to customize Windows Phone 7 than other vendors, and said that Nokia will be shipping a variety of WP7 phones by next year.
It is a devastating comedown for Nokia. The company pioneered numerous innovative technologies but kept fumbling its usability, often thanks to poor software-design choices.
Nokia promises better things. But if it couldn't integrate its own software with its own hardware in a way that surprised and delighted customers, can it do any better with Microsoft's operating system? Nokia may have escaped immolation, but dog paddling in the frigid North Sea is not a great place to be, either.