Buffeted by hardware delays, management shakeups and defecting executives, mobile giant Nokia is looking more and more like a company in serious need of a game-changer. Could Microsoft and its new Windows Phone 7 OS be Nokia’s knight in shining armor?
That was the hot (if not entirely new) Beach Wedding Dresses Monday, with Nokia-obsessed blogger and rumor-monger Eldar Mutarzin claiming (in Russian, translation is here) that new Nokia CEO and former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop recently held talks with Microsoft “behind closed doors” about “expanded cooperation” between the the two companies that could include an “entire line of Windows Phone devices” that would be built by Nokia.
Nokia, of course, has its own new mobile OS, Symbian^3, which powers the new touchscreen N8, as well as MeeGo, its promised mobile OS for high-end smartphones and tablets.
But the delayed and underwhelming N8 met with a muted reception when it shipped back in September, while the first MeeGo devices aren’t expected to ship until next year. Not helping matters is the fact that a key Nokia executive behind the MeeGo project recently fled the company in the wake of a major management shake-up.
And while Nokia still has a slew of promising Symbian^3-based handsets in the pipeline, its would-be flagshipthe 4-inch E7 QWERTY slider just saw its ship date slip back into next year to “ensure the best possible user experience.”
Make no mistake: Nokia is still king of the world when it comes to overall handset sales, but with its global market share slipping from 44.6 percent in late 2009 to 36.6 percent in the third quarter of this year, Nokia is looking a little uneasy on its throne.
So, what’s a quick way for Nokia to put the ball in the air? Well, how about partnerships, OS licensing deals, or even a full-on merger? Indeed, there’s long been chatter that Nokia might look to put someone else’s mobile platform on its high-end hardware, with reports coming out just a couple of months ago that Nokia was talking to Google about Android just weeks after rumors surfaced that Microsoft and Nokia were eyeing each other.
Reactions to the latest Nokia-Microsoft rumors have run the gamut, with GigaOm calling the scenario a “desperation move” and Gizmodo giving the potential deal a “tentative thumb’s up.” WPCentral, which knows its way around Microsoft rumors, says they’re “not holding our breath on this one,” although “we’ll leave the possibility open.”
And if Nokia were to go the Microsoft way, it wouldn’t necessarily be a “zero-sum affair,” ZDNet reminds us, noting that Nokia could “hedge its mobile OS bets in a few places” that is, forge ahead with Symbian^3 and MeeGo devices while also building its own Android and Windows Phone handsets.
Personally, I’ve long been curious what a Nokia-built Android phone one, say, with Carl Zeiss-designed optics, full-on GPS, and other Nokia hardware touchstones would look like, especially after the relative disappointment of the half-baked N8.
And in Microsoft, Nokia might find a software partner eager to do anything it could to boost the fledgling Windows Phone 7 OS, which is facing an uphill battle in the face of Apple’s iOS and Google’s surging Android platform.
Still, the latest Nokia-and-Microsoft, sitting-in-a-tree rumors are just that — rumors, and yes, we’ve heard them before.
Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.