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Nokia plans on phasing out Symbian in favor of Windows Phone 7, which will likely propel Microsoft into the number 2 spot in global smart phone sales by OS.  (Source: Nokia via Engadget)

With Microsoft focusing on providing a slick OS for its phones, Nokia can focus on its hardware fully, for the first time in some time.  (Source: Genius Reviews)
Nokia's new CEO also fires back against criticism by Google

While Symbian isn't exactly a household name in America, for years it sat on top of global smart phone sales, thanks to market leader Nokia's support.  With today's announcement of a strategic partnership with Microsoft, Symbian's owner Nokia let slip a market-moving detail: it is phasing out Symbian for Windows Phone 7.

And just like that Windows Phone 7 has been slated to, in all likelihood, claim the #2 spot  in smart phone global sales by operating system.

I. Becoming a Giant Overnight

The decision to phase out Symbian was revealed in a slide deck presented by Nokia's new CEO Stephen Elop and Nokia CFO, Timo Ihamuotila, at Nokia's Capital Markets Day.

Nokia will continue to support Meego, its joint Linux smart phone OS which it is developing with Intel.  But Meego will only be on a small selection of handsets, where as Windows Phone 7 will be loaded on the majority of Nokia smart phones, according to illustrations in the deck.

It can not be discounted the role Mr. Elop's former executive position at Microsoft played in the two companies coming together.  However, beyond any personal connections, the move makes sense on a number of levels for both firms.  

For Microsoft it's a complete game changer.  Rather than have to chip away and slowly rise in market share like Android, it's punched an instant ticket to the big time.  And with updates soon airing to smooth out its OS's rough edges, Microsoft looks to be in a very, very good position.  It may still lack a handful of features found in iOS and Android, but it arguably offers the most innovative and intuitive interface on the market today.  And its app market is rapidly expanding, further remedying one of its few remaining weaknesses.

For Nokia the move is also a huge opportunity.  As the recent slip to number 2 showed, people aren't exactly very enthusiastic about Symbian anymore.  With its OS budget dramatically slashed over the next few years, Nokia indicates that it will focus more on hardware.  This could be just what the doctor ordered, for the world's struggling largest phone maker.  And the partnership with Microsoft should allow it to expand its smart phone offerings and visibility in the large U.S. market -- a place where it has struggled in recent years.

Probably the biggest risk is for Microsoft to alienate its other partners, like HTC, LG, and Samsung.  All the Nokia hoopla may turn them off and make them devote more effort to Android -- or it could have little effect.  Which is the case remains to be seen.

II. Nokia Fires Back at Google Over "Turkey" Remark

In related news, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop lit up Twitter with a sharp-witted response to Google's earlier insult.  This morning Google engineer Vic Gundrota posted, "two turkeys don't make an eagle, but at least the consumer will have more choice for the menu, as #nokia goes windows"

Showcasing his sound knowledge of American history, Mr. Elop fired back [post], "Or this: Two bicycle makers, from Dayton Ohio, one day decide to fly."

It seems a bit unfair to label Windows Phone 7 a turkey given its radical reinvention of the Windows smart phone platform and relatively short evaluation period on the market.  Whether it's a turkey or an eagle should be seen in a couple of years -- after all, Android looked as much or more like a "turkey" in its first year or so on the market as Windows Phone 7 might today.

More than likely the typically reserved Google is lashing out, based on a bit of discomfort.  Before it seemed to have no real competition for the world #1 spot in the smart phone race.  Apple was unlikely to challenge it, as it was forever constrained to a single proprietary handset model.  And a sinking Nokia seemed equally unlikely to challenge.

Now a resurgent Nokia is back and will soon be offering handsets with a hot new OS -- Windows Phone 7.  The picture has changed dramatically, overnight.

Thus, much like Apple noisily berated Google as Android emerged as a true challenger to iOS in 2010, Google's mud-flinging appears to be found in a bit of frustration and concern.  Amusing commentary aside, it's a sign that Google is taking this merger seriously -- and is likely more than a little worried.

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Feature phones
By log on 2/11/2011 2:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
So what about feature phones? What are they getting. It's great smartphones are getting WP7, but Nokia does more than smartphones. And lots of type phones as opposed to touch phones. And sells a lot in less developed markets. What are these phones getting? Surelly it's not WP7?

Feature phones make a large base of Nokia portfolio. Certainly aren't just going to leave the market!

RE: Feature phones
By Luticus on 2/11/2011 2:49:30 PM , Rating: 2
meego :P

RE: Feature phones
By Smilin on 2/11/2011 3:53:08 PM , Rating: 3
The appeal of a feature phone is simplicity and price. Price is dropping like a rock and WP7 is in many ways simpler to use than a feature phone.

RE: Feature phones
By Stoanhart on 2/11/2011 4:30:23 PM , Rating: 2
How long will feature phones continue to exist? As the cost of smartphones comes down, I suspect they will eventually be the only phones. Sure, some models might ship with a simplified homescreen/shell that looks and feels like a feature phone for those who don't want a smarthphone, but underneath they'll be running the same OS and probably be able to support the same apps.

RE: Feature phones
By acer905 on 2/11/2011 7:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
Feature phones will continue to exist as long as they don't require data plans. The cost of smartphones may be dropping, but you still have to pay hundreds of dollars a year more, and many people just don't care.

A phone should make calls, look decent, and be cheap so when it breaks it doesn't break the bank as well.

RE: Feature phones
By nikon133 on 2/13/2011 3:57:07 PM , Rating: 2
I think it was said somewhere they will keep Symbian for feature phones. For a while, at least; as price of the hardware goes down, I would expect them to put (customised) WP7 on feature phones as well, at some point.

I think this is good move for Nokia, and even better for MS. They could have gone for Android but, considering how strong Android market already is, they would be just another Android phone maker.

Being first exclusive WP7 smart phone maker - and famous one too - MS will treat them much better than Google would, and they will stand out much more than with Android on their handsets.

And MS gets one of the most charismatic brands in mobile phone industry to sell their OS. MS, being American brand, will help Nokia sell better in US, while Nokia will help MS sell better in their traditional markets, like Europe and Asia.

Unfortunately we cannot branch in two realities so we'll never be able to compare how would Nokia and MS fare without this coalition, but I believe that being OS on Nokia smartphones will multiple WP7 sales, stimulate developers and boost WP7 market share much faster than it would grow without Nokia.

It is also likely to polarise other WP7 makers, but while some might drop WP7 and concentrate on Android, those that will remain will put better effort on their WP7 models.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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