Nokia’s alliance with Microsoft is likely to be good news for anyone using Microsoft technologies, and particularly for .NET developers. Before the announcement, the future wasn’t looking so bright for the ‘mobile’ version of Windows, Windows Phone. Microsoft currently has only 3.1% of the Smartphone market, even though it has been involved in it for longer than its main rivals. Windows Phone has now got the basics right, but that is hardly sufficient by itself to change its predicament significantly. With Nokia’s help, it is possible.
Despite the promise of multi-tasking for third party apps, integration with Microsoft platforms such as Xbox and Office, direct integration of Twitter support, and the introduction of IE 9 “later this year”, there have been frustratingly few signs of urgency on Microsoft’s part in improving the Windows Phone product. Until this happens, there seems little prospect of reward for third-party developers brave enough to support the platform with applications. This is puzzling when one sees how well SQL Server and Microsoft’s other server technologies have thrived in recent years, under good leadership from a management that understands the technology. The same just hasn’t been true for some of the consumer products. In consequence, iPads and Android tablets have already exposed diehard Windows users, for the first time, to an alternative GUI for consumer Tablet PCs, and the comparisons aren’t always in Windows’ favour.
Nokia’s problem is obvious: Android’s meteoric rise. Android now has 33% of the worldwide market for smartphones, while the market share of Nokia’s Symbian has dropped from 44% to 31%. As details of the agreement emerge, it would seem that Nokia will bring a great deal of expertise, such as imaging and Nokia Maps, to Windows Phone that should make it more competitive. It is wrong to assume that Nokia’s decline will continue: the shock of Android’s sudden rise could be enough to sting them back to their previous form, and they have Microsoft’s huge resources and marketing clout to help them. For the sake of the whole Windows stack, I really hope the alliance succeeds.