Nokia Abandons Symbian, Focuses on Windows Phone 7

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Nokia announced a major strategic shift last Friday, in which it plans to abandon its own feature- and smart-phone operating systems in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. The company will transition from Symbian, its feature-phone platform, to Microsoft's newest phone OS over a period of several months.

Dubbing the combination the "third ecosystem" after Apple's iOS and Google's Android, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer used the event on the last business day prior to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to lay out a strategy in which Microsoft provides software that complements Nokia's leading global handset position.

Just how dominant Nokia is on a global basis is apparent in the fact that the company expects to sell 150 million Symbian handsets during the transition period. While Symbian has slipped behind Android, as discussed in an article last week, the company's decision to completely shift away from a well-established platform toward Microsoft's operating system has many scratching their heads.

"I love your comment about how this deal is going to help you break into the American market," said one poster to the official Nokia Conversations blog. "If your logic is to use WP7 to break into the American market because it has a better ecosystem there than Symbian, what about the rest of the world? You really want to bet the entire company on WP7 becoming that third ecosystem worldwide when Symbian's already exists and is doing better and better each week?"

The vast majority of comments on the blog, more than 3,000 as of the time of writing, were negative, with some preferring Android or MeeGo over the shift to Windows Phone 7, although an official spokesperson blogged that the company was seeing a mostly neutral on the decision.

"Hard to argue with your assessment that the company's planned moves don't set well with many Nokia fans," posted JohnatNokia, in response to a posting that stated that the move was being panned online as a negative one. "We're also seeing a high degree of neutrality - about 53 percent - among influential blogs that follow us, which indicates they are waiting for more details. Positive sentiment among this group is running about 26 percent; negative about 21 percent. Thanks for sharing your information. We plan to share more details on the proposed alliance with everyone as soon as we can."

MeeGo, a Linux distribution that was announced two years ago at Mobile World Congress, also gets pushed aside in favor of Windows Phone 7, although Nokia says it will ship its first MeeGo device later this year. The company did not say, however, whether it plans to continue either research and development or implementation of MeeGo after the transition period to Windows Phone 7.

Part of the anger from Nokia fans appears to revolve around Elop's statement when he took over the helm of Nokia a few months ago. At that point, he noted that Symbian and MeeGo were well-positioned operating systems, and that the company's intent was to stick with its own platforms rather than looking for third-party operating systems.

Another point of contention is that Windows Phone 7 is newer than either of Nokia's platforms, although Microsoft has been in the mobile handset OS game for several years.

A final point of contention is that Microsoft's platform is not exclusive to Nokia; while Symbian was exclusive and MeeGo was a joint development with Intel, the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system is in use by or under consideration by many carriers around the world.

Nokia may expand on its strategy at Mobile World Congress, which starts today in Barcelona, Spain, and continues through Thursday.

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