Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Nokia/Microsoft Mobile: What's Next?

[Originally published on LinkedIn, 25 April 2014]
The Chinese have a saying, 'under the heavens, there is no banquet that does not end'. On 25th April 2014, a Finnish brand that was in existence since 1871 has sold off the largest components of their multi-billion dollar enterprise. The new corporation will be ignominiously renamed and trading as Microsoft Mobile Oy, even though the Nokia trademark will continue on.
I'm very fond of Nokia, although I fell out of love with them during Elop's clumsy administration. As a 8-year veteran of Nokia during its heyday from 2001-2009, it was easy to be in love with a company that was forward-thinking, adventurous and constantly a leader in mobile technology and hardware. The company afforded me an inside look into how European world-class corporations worked seamlessly to develop winners in the mobile field again and again. Never mind the 'Elop effect', I have a couple of predictions on what might happen from here on out.
1. The Fight for Emerging Markets Rages On
Despite its difficulties with their Indian tax woes, Microsoft Mobile is squarely entrenched in emerging and BRIC markets. With the Asha and Nokia X range of devices; it is now ever more crucial for them to fortify their offerings to beat the Chinese OEMs (Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi) in this increasingly crowded marketplace. They have the advantage of a solid credible brand on their side. I think this will stop their recent down-sizing in key emerging markets, possibly with an upside of more customized offerings in larger territories.
2. Multiple Personality Disorder
With this change, Microsoft Mobile will be the only other OEM (except Samsung) that deals with multiple mobile OS types. The recent foray into an Android-underpinned Nokia X range signals the openness that Microsoft knows its Windows Phone platform has not been a resounding success. It takes a lot of resources to maintain and support multiple platforms and it can get a bit schizophrenic. It's at best a wait-and-see approach to determine what catches on in the market. I foresee this would mean an eventual demise of the Nokia X/Android range as it cleans house to focus on what will be the best bet for Microsoft.
3. Developers, Developers, Developers...X 14
While Nadella certainly looks comfortable on stage, transiting to a multi-platform play can't be easy. The developer community around Nokia served Symbian, Java, Meego, WP, Android apps...it is a lot to take in. In his latest earnings call with analysts, Nadella made many an analyst sigh with relief when he stated his 'mobility first' vision. Developers will not have to down tools as this supports their loyal trek through the various platforms for Microsoft. In fact, I foresee a lot more developer initiatives kicking in to bolster the flagging confidence of the developer community and create an unified app ecosystem. More developers means more apps means more options to monetize their cloud. Nadella won't be sweating this one.
4. Cloudy, With A Chance of Windfall
To reiterate the obvious, the 'mobility first' strategy has to live in the cloud. Connected devices with synchronized storage/editing/collaboration features a la Office 365 is but the first salvo for them. As Google tries to build their Apps for Business in the enterprise environment, Microsoft has neatly captured that nice chunk of corporations that are flirting with the BYOD generation. If you run Windows on your desk or laptop (and 92% of the world still are), companies are likewise incentivized with Microsoft Mobile to give you a cloud-synced device to keep you connected on the road. Now that is enterprising, and the cloud might just provide Microsoft that additional windfall if they collaborate well with mobile network operators and ISPs. I foresee a lot more business development folks calling on those networks.
Today is a pretty big day. The Finns might be starting on their vodka a little earlier, but I smile as I remember this. Even to the end, Nokia lived up to its universal brand promise from so many years ago.
It might be cloud-based and Elop-driven in 2014, yet Nokia still carries on "Connecting People".