The Road To Nokia World 2011 Part 3: How Windows Phone Can Change The Tide

Nokia World 2011 is scheduled for next week in London and it is undoubtedly the most hyped and the most important event in recent Nokia history. Throughout this week, FoneArena will take a look at expectations, realities and myths related to this particular year, in preparation for the big reveals that will come on October 26th and 27th. Join us in this journey, comment, share your thoughts, and feel with us the excitement as the big days approach!

In yesterday’s post, we discussed the need for Symbian and Meego to remain available in the near future in order to cater to long-time Nokia fans. However, we stopped short of explaining Windows Phone’s place in the battle, moving forward. This is what we will do today.

See, ever since February 2011 and the new strategy announcement, I have been vocal about the importance that this change will bring. I was probably one of the first to explain why it was a fantastic decision, and why it was announced in such a wrong way that it never made anyone feel excited about it. I have had 8 more months to ponder this even more and I think Nokia was right in emphasizing “ecosystem” in its tagline, it’s just that publicizing it as the “third ecosystem” still doesn’t fit well in my book. Symbian has a weak ecosystem, Meego doesn’t really have one, but Windows Phone is starting to develop a very strong one.

Let me explain my point by stating the pillars that make an ecosystem, the way I understand it:

1. A committed company developing it: think of iOS and Android, would any of them be popular if Apple or Google were pursuing other options in the mobile scene, or not pushing them forward with all their strength? No. In order for an ecosystem to create faith in its brethren, it has to be fully endorsed and fully supported by the company making it. Windows Phone has the advantage of a computer giant, Microsoft, behind it. And at the rate that they are going, they look like they’re here to stay, and they don’t even consider an alternative platform at all.

2. Unique services: In order for a user to be committed to an ecosystem and to keep choosing it year after year when he buys a new mobile device, there has to be a slew of unique services that ties him to it. Blackberry was the first to have this with its BES and BBM offering. Apple’s iTunes is another perfect example, add in iMessage, iCloud, Siri, and you can see why someone with an iPhone 4S will have a very hard time switching platforms when the time comes for a new purchase. Android, well Android so far doesn’t have unique services per se, but it offers unique and better integration with Google services, it’s also on the way to start offering Google Music and Google Video. Symbian had the now-defunct Ovi for a while, yet we all know that aside from Maps, there was no real tie-in to the Ovi services. Windows Phone, is kind of equivalent to Android, in that it offers better integration with Microsoft services like Bing, Hotmail, Messenger, Skydrive, Office. It does however come with X-Box live and Zune integration, which are good signs of unique service tie-ins.

3. Developers and applications: for an ecosystem to be seriously considered as such, it has to be on the priority list of every developer and every service provider out there. Apps are no longer those silly noise making buttons, they are now an integral part of everyone’s daily life. From ebook reading, to document editing, to planners and organizers, readers, social networks, image editors and sharing, apps have found a way to make the “smart” in smartphone even smarter. And it’s not just that. An ecosystem needs to appeal to the professional as well as the personal side of everyone’s life: for example, iOS excels at that with a slew of law, engineering, designing, medical,… apps to cater to the professional aspect of users lives. It also needs to have the support of the newspaper you read, your city’s public transportation system, your favorite restaurants, your clothing stores, your movie theaters… in order for it to be practical as your daily platform. Windows Phone is making short but steady steps forward in this direction, and although it has not yet reached the status of iOS or Android, it is the most likely third candidate for many companies.

4. Accessories: you might consider them superfluous, but accessories are becoming more mainstream nowadays. And we’re not just talking about screen protectors, cases or stands, but also car holders, mobile chargers, heart rate monitors, and even blood sugar monitors! Accessories are what allow you to take your device and push its uses forward, be it through making it an in-car nav unit, or helping you in your exercise routines, or monitoring your health. There was even an ultrasound unit made for Windows Mobile, and if Microsoft can capitalize on their importance in the scene, many great accessories will be made for Windows Phone just the same.

5. Operators: all of this is quite useless without operator support. As much as we would love to live without their constant grip on the mobile market, operators are here for now, and their endorsement of a platform or a device is a make-or-break moment for its future in several countries. Had AT&T not endorsed the iPhone in 2007, Apple would have had to sell it unlocked for over 700$ in its retail shops, only the wealthy would have afforded it, and the world wouldn’t have known the mobile revolution it has known since. Windows Phone, on Samsung and HTC, has made it to several operators so far, albeit shyly. With Nokia’s distribution channels, it won’t be long before it floods the market.

Once you read and understand these 5 points, you will see that there is a lot more than just Twitter and Facebook apps in making an ecosystem, which is why Symbian never fully attained that status, why Meego couldn’t, and why, aside from iOS and Android, Windows Phone is the only operating system poised to become a real ecosystem. Bada, WebOS, Tizen,… none of them stand a chance. This is what makes the Nokia+Windows Phone combination such an attractive one. You couple Nokia’s expertise in hardware designs, its Maps offering, its superb camera builds, its impeccable reception, with a real ecosystem, and you have an ultimate giant waiting to come out of the cocoon.

Besides, the major problem for Nokia, in the past ~3 years has been the lack of a sure future for potential buyers.

Take me for example. When I buy a mobile device, I invest in it. I invest MY time in order to familiarize myself with how it works, from simple things like setting up an alarm to more complex operations… I also invest MY money, in the device itself, as well as in applications and accessories for it. Knowing that, my purchase decision is most influenced by whether or not there is a chance for a continuation of my investment, ie, when it is time for me to buy another device, will I have to start from scratch or do I have a certain faith that the ecosystem will still be here in a year and I will be able to upgrade to a better offer without losing my time or money’s worth? For at least 2 years now, I haven’t had faith in my Nokia-related decisions. And there are many others like me, who decided to go the safe route of iOS or Android. This also explains why no media reviewer or online blogger was really able to recommend a Nokia device, and why the hatred started fueling up against the company.

Windows Phone changes that.

Windows Phone brings the assurance of an almost certain future. Microsoft definitely will not bail on it. Nokia have their back to the wall so hard, they most likely and logically won’t change strategies anytime in the next 2 years at least. And there is an ecosystem being put in place around it. So when, in a couple of months, I decide to plunk down a small fortune for a Nokia with Windows Phone, I will do so with a big faith that I am not losing my investment’s worth. This faith, aside from the novelty and the cleanliness of the interface, is how Windows Phone can flip the tide for Nokia.