A quick note- most people probably only need to read the first two sections (What Has Happened; What it Means for Mobile Ministry Among the Unreached). If you're really interested, though, I've provided a bit further analysis of why the change happened and likely winners and losers resulting from that change after those first two sections.
What Has Happened
Microsoft and Nokia have made an agreement by which Nokia will begin using Microsoft Windows Phone as their new operating system for all smartphones. Nokia’s old smartphone operating systems, Symbian Series 60 and Symbian S^3, will be phased out (i.e. die) within the next two years but approximately 150 million new phones using the older operating systems are still planned to be sold between now and sometime in 2012. Nokia expects its first Windows Phone 7 handsets to ship either in the fourth quarter of 2011 or first quarter of 2012.
What it Means for Mobile Ministry Among the Unreached
There’s both good and bad here. The good, in my mind, is simply that we are moving into a situation where Western, often U.S. based, ministries will start developing ministry apps that will work on Nokia devices. That’s HUGE as Nokia is the world’s largest phone manufacturer BY FAR. The ministries won’t do it because Nokia has the biggest uptake among the unreached, nope- they’ve ignored Nokia’s Symbian operating system which is the largest smartphone platform in the world for years either because they haven’t seen Nokia here in the West (it has something like 8% of the market in the U.S.) or were persuaded to ignore Symbian compared to the glitz of developing for the elegant iPhone which has taken Western markets by storm. Rather, Christian ministries based in the West will start developing ministry apps for Nokia devices because it is on one of the five major operating systems that are making waves and selling smartphones in the West (the others being Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Research In Motion’s Blackberry and HP’s WebOS).
PTL for whatever reason they do it, there’s now a chance that U.S. based ministries will pay attention to the one other smartphone platform besides Android that has real potential impact among the unreached. With both Nokia, the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, and Samsung, the 2nd largest, producing Windows 7 Phones and Nokia expecting to bring the price-point for an entry level Windows 7 phone down to something comparable to an entry level Google Android phone these two operating systems will make an impact on the unreached. I’m encouraged to believe that there's now a chance that Western ministries could be there and ready with ministry apps when that happens. If anyone is reading this and still thinking about developing an iPhone app for reaching the unreached ask yourself how many of the unreached are driving Porsches and Jaguars? Apple wants to be the luxury brand for smartphones and its quality, price point and profits show that it is succeeding. Google Android and Windows Phone 7 are competing to take the place of Toyota and Hyundai in the smartphone world. I don’t know which will take which position but they will eventually reach a good number of the people we’re trying to reach whereas iPhones will only reach the elites.
That’s the good- here’s the bad. More than one third of all smartphones in existence worldwide, and a lot larger percentage of those in Asia and Africa, are still Symbian-based and Nokia plans on selling a further 150 million over the next two years. These 300 million plus users are now going to be almost assuredly ignored by Christian ministries- who is crazy enough to develop an app for Symbian now. That is sad. At the same time, though, with current phone life-cycles most of those phones will have been replaced within three years and even the hand-me-downs that will still be in use in Africa and Asia should only be in use for 6-7 more years maximum.
Why The Nokia-Microsoft Agreement Happened
1) Nokia has been rapidly losing profits and market share in the smartphone market- especially to phones using the Google Android operating system. Although it was still in the #1 position it was likely to lose that position, once dominant, by the end of the year.
2) Part of why it was losing market share was that the Symbian operating system’s user interface was too old, slow, clunky and visually unappealing and could not compete with the elegant user experience being offered by iPhones, etc. Symbian was designed for hardware keyboard phones and could not be reworked for a touchscreen world.
3) Along with the above, developing for Symbian was creating too much drag for Nokia- If you know Symbian and C++ very well, your application will have a raw performance that most other OSs can dream of, but unfortunately it will take you 3 months to develop, and not 3 weeks (Why Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 is the Best Way to Pee in Your Pants- the silly title comes from a former Nokia CEO's rant about the stupidity of Nokia adopting Google Android). This was kept Nokia from remaining competitively agile and kept apps developers from being able to quickly innovate, develop and get groundbreaking products to market.
4) Stephen Elop said that the mobile phone war had evolved from a focus on handsets to a focus on “ecosystems” and for Nokia to survive and thrive it had to move beyond just producing good handsets to developing a complete and competitive ecosystem. Ecosystems, in this definition, meaning the combination of handset producers, operating systems, apps stores and developer communities, advertising, navigation and gaming services, etc. The Nokia-Microsoft ecosystem would aim to deliver differentiated and innovative products and have unrivalled scale, product breadth, geographical reach, and brand identity (from Nokia’s Letter to Developers About Today’s News).
5) Nokia’s CEO and Board saw this move as a means of ensuring that Nokia, with Windows Phone 7, could to take part in a “three horse race” along with the other two mobile device (smartphones/tablets) leaders, Google Android and Apple iOS, rather than continuing to be lose ground to them.
6) Microsoft is going to pay Nokia billions of dollars as part of the agreement.
7) Conspiracy theorists love the fact that Stephen Elop, a top Microsoft executive prior to taking on his position at Nokia, is the 8th largest personal holder of Microsoft stocks. The term “Trojan Horse” has been thrown around a bit by this crowd.
+ Microsoft (Microsoft has stumbled badly in its previous forays into mobile. Partnering with the world’s number one phone producer and leveraging its distribution channels can only help Microsoft gain a secure foothold in this crucial market).
+ Windows Phone 7 (it has had a very low adoption rate since its release last year but now is the replacement operating system to the most sold smartphone operating system)
+ Microsoft Office and Exchange users who want interoperability with their mobile phone
+ Game lovers who can now do Xbox gaming on their mobile phone
- Open Source (The Symbian operating system was open source, Windows Phone isn’t)
- Intel/Linux/MeeGo (Nokia had partnered with Intel and Linux to develop a new high-end mobile operating system called MeeGo. Nokia is now saying it will still release a (read that one) MeeGo device later this year but has, otherwise, altered its MeeGo plans
- Battery Life (Symbian was highly optimized to use minimum power, not so for other operating systems like Windows Phone 7, Android, etc.)
- Symbian s60/^3/QT developers (their products becoming “futureless” and relatively worthless and their needing to learn Microsoft’s development system which is completely different than what they were using- .NET based rather than C++ based)
- Symbian users (no upgrade path)
- Nokia workers. Lots of cuts planned.
+/? Google Android ecosystem (In the short term before the end of 2011 Google Android phones will likely see even more rapid uptake as Nokia faithful looking for an upgrade/replacement will have even more reason to abandon Symbian-based smartphones and, instead, purchase relatively low-cost Android smartphones. In the medium term it will be interesting to see whether Nokia’s strategy pays of and its Windows Phone 7 based smartphones start taking back lost market share)
-/? Nokia (Nokia will lose a boatload of smartphone marketshare this year. What happens once Nokia is able to begin shipping new Windows Phone 7 handsets en-masse is yet to be seen. Additionally, it will be interesting to see how many developers they lose versus pick up as Windows Phone 7 has yet to pick up many developers)