I don’t usually read The Register, but this article is exceptionally well-written and thoroughly researched. It includes thoughts by Mark Wilcox, a mobile developer and author that has worked for both Nokia and the Symbian Foundation.
The UX matters: it’s the first thing potential customers see when a friend passes them their new phone in the pub. A well-designed UX is consistent, forgiving and rewarding; Nokia’s user experience was inconsistent, unforgiving and hostile. Nokia’s designers honed in with meticulous attention to the wrong detail. Apple’s iPhoneOS UI had some unusual features – smooth graphics that played transitions at 60-frames-per-second, thanks to a dedicated graphics chip. Instead of redesigning the entire UX, Nokia acquired expensive professional-grade video cameras to determine the animation speed, and having confirmed that yes, it was 60fps, tried to recreate the transitions.
Today’s announcement that Nokia will use the Windows Phone platform as its primary operating system solution going forward has been received with mixed reactions by consumers and industry experts alike. In Finland, however, the reactions are almost exclusively negative in tone, highlighting the obvious disadvantages with such an alliance:
- Windows Phone is, for Nokia, a completely new and unfamiliar operating system
- No more return on significant software investments, namely Symbian, Qt and MeeGo
- Software and hardware solutions will no longer both be developed “in house”
- The restructuring needed may put employees at risk of losing their jobs
The reactions are understandable: Nokia is seen as a domestic product, as are its software platforms Symbian and MeeGo. Switching to Windows Phone is perceived as an intrusion by foreigners, and it seems that most Finns are ignoring the advantages of an alliance with Microsoft because of this perception. It’s a shame, because there are many reasons why the announcement today may lead to a strong future for Nokia.
Firstly, Nokia can quickly come to market with new hardware models because — as an operating system — Windows Phone is a mature implementation that has already been used in commercial products. Nokia can focus on engineering great hardware and integrating its software with the new OS, and spend less time focusing on maintaining and improving its own OS initiatives.
Secondly, the potential size of Nokia’s developer community will most likely enjoy significant growth. Though switching to Windows Phone will inevitably alienate a large portion of the current community, the sheer amount of .NET/C#/Visual Basic developers is a fact that can’t be discounted. For most developers, using the Windows Phone SDK and its choice of programming languages is arguably far more palatable than C++ and Qt . The percentage of PCs running Windows has led to a vast reserve of developers expert in the very technologies and architecture model that Windows Phone favours.
The alliance entails drastic changes for Nokia. It’s a very bold move, a fact that I don’t think anyone disputes. But I also see it as both an encouraging and necessary one: the current software solutions and services developed at Nokia are the primary reason why the company has experienced stagnancy whilst its two main competitors continue marching forward.
Nokia gains software solutions and support from Microsoft; Microsoft gains consumer reach from Nokia. I see this as the encouraging start of a brighter future for the mobile phone giant.