It was interesting watching Stephen Elop declare his loyalty to the Windows Phone 7 os and implicitly ditch Symbian and Meego. Question is did he do the right thing?
I’m in two minds about whether this was the right thing or not and none of my reasoning is because of my love for Android or Windows Phone 7. I have to confess I was a little surprised at Nokia’s choice. It’s not a surprise of the desire to ditch Symbian for a range of reasons which included the fact that it had been out innovated by other OS’s and was looking rather dated therefore loosing market share. Rumour also has it that the Symbian code base was forked so many times that it was out of control leading to poor quality and increased number of defects. So on that score did Elop just look at the internal Symbian development effort as requiring too much effort to bring it back in line? Did he think the legacy was an additional hindrance? Possibly. Before we completely write off Symbian as a child gone bad we have to remember that it’s still one of the largest device OS’s in use, even if iOS and Android have caught up. I’m less clear about the reasons for ditching Meego, but clearly it didn’t inspire any confidence in Elop.
Another reason for my surprise at Elop’s choice was because I’d have thought that the Android platform would’ve been potentially more attractive to Nokia at least from a technical stance. The leap from developing on Meego to Android would’ve been potentially less than jumping to Windows Phone 7. The learning curve for the Nokia development teams would surely have been less since they were pretty comfortable with linux based systems? The move to Windows Phone 7 I’m sure is going to be bigger effort to switch. The other thing I’d have thought would’ve been more attractive to Nokia would’ve been the fact they’d have had more flexibility with Android that with Windows Phone 7. Microsoft will seek to lock down many aspects of their platform whereas Android would’ve been more ‘open’ for them and Nokia would’ve had a bigger say in the Droid community than the Microsoft one.
Conversely though its no bad thing to have diversity in the handset OS market to create competition and on this front Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7, as well as being a needed boost for Microsoft, is going to create more competition in the device OS market. Having a huge device supplier like Nokia adopting your platform is a real win and ultimately consumers may feel the benefits of competition in the future. However, what does Nokia jilting Intel over Meego mean for Meego?
Perhaps Elop felt that better the devil you know, or rather, better the devil he knows hence his choice of Windows. At MWC Elop stated that Symbian and Meego will be used for experimentation and disruption, but frankly this is wishful thinking. If you were a developer would you expend effort on an OS that’s going to die? It’s not cool to develop on a platform that has no future is it? Would you want to invest your time and future in Symbian and Meego knowing that Nokia is moving to Windows Phone 7? So if the developers don’t write code and there are no apps and no community then what experimentation and disruption is there going to be? Additionally why would Nokia employees want to waste time experimenting with Symbian and Meego when the future is Windows Phone 7? Surely you’re better of experimenting and disrupting with the Windows platform Nokia?
Let’s face it the one thing we can be sure of is that Symbian and Meego are going to die for Nokia devices. It might not happen next week, it might not happen next month but at some point the stark realisation that these platforms have no future will dawn on many people and they’ll stop developing. The question is not if, but when and how fast the demise of Symbian and Meego will happen.