Today, 11th February 2011, is an unfortunate day in the history of mobile computing. Microsoft and Nokia has announced partnerships for Windows Phone 7 (WP7) as the primary smartphone platform on Nokia devices. Besides WP7, Nokia will also run Bing and in turn Bing will use the Ovi Maps for their backend. Nokia will also get X-Box live and Office services up and running on their devices. But above all, Nokia’s primary smartphone platform will be a closed source platform. If one reads the press release, it is but natural to see that the deal is real good for Microsoft. It gives WP7 a chance to survive in the already competitive market. But it does not bring anything new for Nokia (except that they could probably be getting a WP7 phone in the market in 6 months)! WP7 seems like the last straw that Nokia will ever have to survive and in the sea of already selling OSs like Android and iOS, it would be hard to barge in with just the HW and expect greater sales then other HW providers like HTC, Samsung, etc.
Maybe Nokia has some plans on how they will differentiate from other WP7 phones. And maybe WP7 will make some changes specifically for Nokia. But it still does not add up for me. Nokia has gone from a phone company to just a HW company (probably an OEM). If this would still have been 2004, it would have been a different story. But in 2011, Nokia has got a lot of competition in terms of producing competing HW. And with so many droids flooding the market on a wide variety of HW and screen sizes, and supposedly an open OS with literally more than million apps in its app store, how will Nokia pitch its devices? What will trigger a customer to buy a Nokia HW with closed OS (WP7) and virtually no apps in its store?
Nokia had a chance with MeeGo. Being a Maemo user myself, I can clearly see the difference between a real Linux OS to just a pseudo Linux or closed OS. And I had been using Windows Mobile from 1999 (PPC2000 and stuff), so I am not biased at all with open source. But open source just allows for a lot of different things that a normal closed source or supposedly open source cannot compete with. For example, Maemo has VOIP capabilities built-in to the architecture. Android has to have 3rd party apps costing around 11$ for general SIP/VOIP capable SW. Again, I really like an OS which uses the raw HW power instead of layering it with redundant system calls.
I had been at the Windows Mobile 7 launches in 2009 where Microsoft was talking about making secure calls between the kernel and user space code. And for that, they introduced two new APIs. So all in all, a user space code would trigger 4 system calls instead of just 2 (in Windows Mobile 6). And I had asked Microsoft on how that would impact performance and their answer was “None at all”! Any engineer can see that is not the case and was one of the reasons of Microsoft scrapping Windows Mobile 7 (running a kernel derived from Vista) and re-implementing on the CE kernel.
But on the plus part of the deal, I see a lot of good for Microsoft. They get another device manufacturer to use their OS and services. And if it goes off big time, they can be a serious competitor in the mobile industry. As for Nokia, they will probably fire away all the SW people and be just another HW provider. It it goes off big time, they will still be a small part of what they used to be. And it also means a huge loss to the open source community. The first decision that Nokia took was to let off the support for Maemo. Maemo was allready a shipping OS. They could have kept it alive while taking in small chunks of Moblin to scale to other form factors. But they did a big bang by announcing MeeGo. This still was not a problem as long as both Intel and Nokia were committed to churning out an Open OS. Also Qt will take a huge hit and I see the Microsoft technologies taking all over it.
Now with Nokia on the WP7 gang, I don’t see why Intel will do a real push for MeeGo. Maybe Intel can just start focusing more on Ubuntu Netbook or lay low and get into the Nokia, Microsoft, WP7 gang. MeeGo probably will become another abandoned open source project. I really don’t believe that Nokia will be able to manager 3 different OSs especially when they have named WP7 as the primary OS.
But all in all, Nokia will not be the Nokia we used to know. And the open source community will loose its trust once and for all. Nokia has jumped from one burning platform to a sinking one. And if sinking one seems a far bit stretched, then burning one is right on target. WP7 is not exactly selling like hot cakes or mere cakes. But time will say. Lets see if this is another engineering company going down the drains because of employing a non-engineer as its CEO or maybe it is a non-engineer CEO saving an engineering company! But whatever happens to Nokia in future, history will take notice of what you have done in mobile technology. Hope I see MeeGo on my smartphone before I get sucked into the vortex. RIP Nokia…