Microsoft/Nokia partnership: Nothing much so far

When Microsoft and Nokia announced their major alliance behind Windows Phone, it brought the promise of special products to kick-start the platform. So far, all it's brought are a couple of phones like the rest.

Early this year Microsoft and Nokia were beaming as they announced the strategic alliance that would see the latter's smartphones switching to the Windows Phone platform. Talk was rampant about the possibilities working closely together would create for new competitive products. Rumors have been tossed freely describing that Microsoft paid over a billion dollars to Nokia to form the alliance. With all of the posturing by both companies, it is not unreasonable to think Nokia would produce a Windows Phone product with features to set it apart from the competition. Strangely, that hasn't happened.

I have been following the happenings at Nokia World this week, hoping to see something unique coming that the strategic alliance has spawned. We've seen the first two Windows Phone products from Nokia, but neither one has that special something to set them apart from the competition. They are nice devices, but there is no special something that screams "look at me". There's not even a front-facing camera among them, to better take advantage of Skype video calling that is now under the Microsoft umbrella.

With all of the money and resources Microsoft and Nokia are pouring into this Windows Phone alliance, to see nothing that sets it apart from the crowd is puzzling. It leads to the conjecture that Microsoft can't help Nokia produce a special feature in its Windows Phone line due to concerns about upsetting its other platform partners. Maybe Microsoft realizes its partner's commitment to the Windows Phone platform is fragile, and can't risk upsetting the Mango cart.

With an alliance that reportedly has cost over a billion dollars, it's not unreasonable to expect something new and improved, or even something radically unique. Instead all we've seen are some decent handsets with more of the same, only bearing the Nokia branding. That's not likely enough to make this huge effort worthwhile.

It bears closely watching Nokia in the near term to see if something, anything specific to this strategic alliance comes along to set the resulting products apart from the crowd. It's not a huge crowd to be sure, but just another handset or two like the others is not worth all of the effort expended.