Nokia and Microsoft team up: Suffering together, merging to survive?

Summary:Nokia's Strategy and Financial Briefing today outlined a radical shakeup of the phone giant's plans, including a marrying of Nokia phones and Microsoft's newest mobile operating system. But this could show a mutual weakness rather than a friendly partnership.

Nokia has struggled in the last few years, suggesting that the mobile phone manufacturer is in trouble. With Google's Android operating system, combined with 'viral phones' like the BlackBerry range and the iPhone, Nokia has struggled to play catch up.

But the teaming up of Nokia with Microsoft to roll out the Windows Phone 7, which was confirmed this morning, could be pouring more petrol on already burning bonfire.

And beyond the merging of simply Nokia and Microsoft phone services, Bing will power the device search facilities while Nokia Maps will become a core part of Bing Maps.

Nokia and Microsoft haven't quite merged, but for all intents and purposes, they may as well have done.

Windows Phone 7 sales have barely taken off, with numbers that have been vastly misreported by the Redmond software giant, though not escaped by our very own Mary Jo Foley. And just because this partnership will include new Nokia hardware with design-suited Microsoft software, it does not mean that the Symbian relics will disappear any time soon.

Perhaps the two coming together will provide mutual beneficiary to one another, rather than Microsoft appearing to support Nokia during its depression.

But it isn't the first time Nokia and Microsoft have worked together. Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia, only recently departed from Microsoft where he headed the Office business division. Under his oversight, mobile versions of Office were brought to Nokia E-series devices.

While no phone manufacturer can viably compete with the iPhone, many have tried and failed. But where the iPhone fails is the innovation of Android, the world's most popular phone operating system.

Together, these forces have nearly crippled Nokia; yet though they still maintain their top spot in handset sales, the lead is narrowing.

MeeGo was reported to have been dropped by Nokia, but now says that the first MeeGo phone will ship before the end of this year. As an open-source mobile operating system, it could potentially rival Android while its new sibling, the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system takes on Apple's iOS powered iPhone.

It is not clear when the new Windows Phone 7 powered Nokia devices will emerge, but Nokia have made it clear that existing Symbian run phones will be side-lined in favour of the new operating system.

Nokia will have a tough time working with Microsoft to convince at very least the Generation Y that Windows Phone 7 is a viable mobile operating system for long-term use, let alone tempt them away from their iPhone and BlackBerry habits.

Microsoft's power in the advertising segment is perceptively equal to that of Nokia's. Both appear regularly on television, and combined could take the unified devices into a new age.

But the one question that remains is whether Windows Phone 7 any better than the iPhone? Unless compelling arguments can be made, short of brainwashing the European population of anything Apple or BlackBerry related, the new strategy outlined today may still struggle.

As Android can be ported for free to such a wide variety of phones across the spectrum of manufacturers, the marrying of Nokia's hardware and Microsoft's mobile operating system signals a shift in the portability of Windows Phone 7 to other devices.

Overtaking Nokia's own Symbian platform, Android took the crown as the most used mobile operating system for phones worldwide. Though the numbers are still tight between the two, Nokia took a blow in the overtaking.

It would make sense for Nokia to join the Android clan and ditch Windows Phone 7 altogether. If it's Android consumers are after, both Nokia and Microsoft are gambling that the two can come together to make Windows Phone 7 successful.

Then again, at least there is a new strategy. Anything is better than before today when there seemingly wasn't one. But the problems Nokia had and still has will not be cured overnight, and will probably seep into next year regardless of the new strategy announced today.

Topics: CXO, Enterprise Software, IT Employment, Nokia, Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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