By creating an alliance that will take a year to materialize, Microsoft is alienating its other mobile partners and ceding the lower and mid-range smartphone market to Google.
Everybody saw it coming but the Microsoft-Nokia announcement is still shaking the market today. Nokia’s(NOK) shares have just fallen off a cliff (right) losing 12% of their value ($5B) on the news. Microsoft (MSFT) shares are faring better but its current smartphone partners (LG, Samsung, HTC, Dell) have to be wary of their long term prospects with a company that is signing up for a special relationship with their biggest rival that includes incorporating Nokia’s location and mapping.
Initially, many could see this as a net negative for Google (GOOG). Nokia, the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world just signed up to use Bing search results in its smartphones. That’s not good news for Google.
If Nokia had chosen Google’s Android, it would have been all but a knockout punch to Windows Phone 7’s hopes of gaining global market share. Now, at least on paper, WP7 has some momentum.
But for Android, this is going to be another catalyst for market share explosion. Let me explain:
Nokia isn’t releasing a Windows 7 phone this week, this month or maybe even this year. In fact, the paperwork hasn’t even been signed on the deal, in whatever form it takes. That means that Nokia is going to be selling Symbian (and MeeGo?) for the next few years as it transitions. Elop says he expects to sell 150 million more Symbian devices before he closes the platform.
Symbian is the biggest player in mid- to lower range smartphones globally right now. But who is going to buy a smartphone with an already obsoleted OS? When a Nokia’s CEO says that both of its OSes aren’t worthy market competitors, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. In fact, its hard for me to rationalize any reason buying a Nokia phone for the foreseeable future. If Microsoft wouldn’t guarantee an upgrade for Windows Mobile 6.5 phones to Windows Phone 7, do you think they will even consider Symbian?
How do you even spin the events of the last few days? Can some ad agency come up with a campaign that says: “This OS isn’t good enough for Nokia but it is good enough for you!”
Sure some people will still buy Nokia phones over the next years but if you thought people were jumping off of Symbian and into Android’s arms before this announcement, get ready to see a tidal wave.
iPhones are amazing but they cost $600. BlackBerry (RIMM) is in the midst of its own OS transformation to QNX but has been losing marketshare quarter after quarter. HP(HPQ) is just starting out on its own interesting webOS devices, which seem to be pitched more towards the high-end Apple crowd, at least at the moment.
Android? Android is exploding.
Windows Phone 7 isn’t taking off on other manufacturers’ devices for a number of reasons (including lack of hardware innovation) and today’s news is only going to alienate the Samsungs and HTCs more. Nokia has been their rival for a decade and now Microsoft is signing a special relationship deal, including Nokia Maps? Location is one of the biggest areas of growth on mobile devices and WP7 navigation is now Nokia’s Navteq.
I see marketing dollars being shifted into LG/Samsung/HTC/Dell’s (GOOG) Android lines almost immediately and in the longer term less willingness to devote R&D to Windows Phone 7 development.
The near term couldn’t be rosier for Android.
Nokia has neutralized itself as well as given its rivals more reason to embrace Android. HP and Blackberry are rebooting. Apple seems happy at the high end (unless you believe this).
Google’s Mobile Maps team stands to benefit as well. A big part of the deal announced today melds Bing Maps on Windows Mobile 7 with Nokia’s Navteq. Again, Samsung and HTC have to be “thrilled” to be putting their chief rival’s navigation and mapping technology on their hardware.
If Nokia continues (and likely accelerates) its downward market share spiral throughout 2011, the deal that Microsoft signed up for will have been to get their product on a hardware manufacturer the size of HTC and Samsung, not the industry leader.
Nokia could easily be in the 10-20% of Smartphone share range by the end of the year along with RIM, Apple and soaring Samsung and HTC. That’s down from nearly 50% just a few years ago.
Perhaps the most interesting thing here is that Google would have been in the driver’s seat no matter which way Nokia went.