Google vs. Microsoft: The ongoing battle moves to Nokia's "burning platform"

As Nokia finds itself in need of a new partner, Google and Microsoft face off again - but this time, there's only one obvious choice.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

When Nokia CEO Stephen Elop takes the stage at an analysts meeting in London tomorrow - days after his infamous "burning platform" memo was leaked - he'll presumably begin outlining Nokia's new strategy.

At the center of that strategy are the forces of two technology powerhouses - Google and Microsoft. Certainly those two companies aren't strangers when it comes to meeting on technology battlefields. They've been battling over search, productivity apps and e-mail contracts for some time now. But this may be the first time they've come head-to-head over mobile.

Until now, Google has been fighting Apple on that front, working to elevate Android in a fast-moving swoop to catch-up with the iPhone. And it's largely worked - mobile has largely become a two-man race between Apple and Google. But now Microsoft, which is very late to this latest stretch of the mobile game, needs something to help it get back into the game.

And the savior may be the company that just discovered that it's standing on a burning platform: Nokia.

Related: Nokia's problem: Is there time to change culture amid a burning platform?

Nokia may have slipped in the worldwide market by hanging on to the Symbian OS. But make no mistake, the company still sells more smartphones that any other company out there. For Microsoft, Nokia could save Windows Phone 7 and help elevate it into a worldwide contender. For Google, a deal to bring Android to Nokia devices could pretty much lock in Google as a powerhouse in the mobile industry.

An unnamed source told the New York Times in an article this week that both companies are offering hundreds of millions of dollars in engineering and marketing resources to Nokia. And George F. Colony, chairman of Forrester Research, told the NYT that “Nokia doesn’t have the weapons to fight this fight on its own” and that a deal with Microsoft represents a higher risk. "The obvious choice for Nokia is Android,” Colony told the Times.

I agree.

If Elop is serious about transforming Nokia, then it cannot afford to take great risks on another company that, quite frankly, hasn't recognized yet that it's also standing on a platform that's starting to burn. Consider this excerpt from Elop's memo:

How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved? This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally.

Is he talking about Nokia - or is he talking about Microsoft? I can't imagine that Elop would want to jump from one burning platform to another. Instead, I would hope that Elop would want to jump on a high-riding wave of a platform that has already proven that it can move fast to not only adapt to new technologies but to also set the bar higher for others.

For Nokia, the smart move is to "Go Google."

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