Is Nokia following in Palm’s Footsteps?

My good friend, Gina Smith, asked everyone this morning what everyone thought of a Nokia analysis she wrote. It got me thinking… I can remember sitting in my car, driving home from work while living in Nashville talking with my friend (and at the time), fellow Gear Diary Team Member, Chris Gavula, talking about Palm Treo's and how awesome it would be if Palm would release a Treo with a native version of Windows Mobile on it.  A short while later, I got my wish when the Treo 750 hit Cingular/AT&T. I got to review the device for Gear Diary, here.

2011-02-14 11.39.12 am
Who's REALLY reaching for help?

The big draw for the Treo at the time..?  The hardware. It was some of the best available; and most every mobile device enthusiast that I knew of had said that if they could get WM on a Treo, they would be all over it.  For those that don’t know, the Treo line was made by HTC.  As everyone knows, HTC is one of the hottest and most successful smartphone manufacturers around. They’re the reason why the Treo had so much traction.

Unfortunately for Palm, the WM Treo’s (including the Treo 750, Treo Pro, etc.) weren’t a huge hit.  The hardware was underpowered, suffered from cramped keyboards and used screen shapes and sizes that didn’t sit very well with the consumers who were initially interested in them.  The Windows Mobile 5.x and 6.x OS also didn’t help much, as the OS versions had their own challenges.  Sadly HTC stopped manufacturing for Palm, and well… we all know what happened to them.

I see the latest development with MS and Nokia as a similar move to the Palm-MS move from a few years ago.  The only difference – MS didn’t pay Palm billions of dollars to get WP on Palm devices.  However, the move by Palm and the move by Nokia smack of the same desperation.  The only real question you have to ask is WHO is the desperate party – Nokia or Microsoft?

While Nokia has historically been one of, if not THE mobile phone leader (their hardware is considered to be top notch by many people in the industry), they have taken a serious hit in market share over the last few years with the introduction of Android and the vast improvements and high adoption rates of iOS.  Microsoft’s WM/WP OS has been around for many, many years, but Windows Phone has gone through a huge redesign and many in the industry, me included, feel that its too little, too late.  HTC hardware while compelling and awesome in its own right can be found with other native operating systems on it on a wide variety of carriers. I don’t have to stick with any specific carrier or OS to get an HTC experience now. Nokia hardware at this time, is Symbian only, and for me, the OS really hasn’t held any real draw…and let’s face it, while hardware is fun, it’s the combination hardware and OS and what it does, the way it does it, that draws users to it. Symbian has many of the same OS problems that Palm’s Garnet OS had.

Nokia, in my opinion needs to take some lessons learned from Palm and apply them to their own situation.  They are losing share, losing relevance with Symbian, and have had a number of hardware misfires.  While they are NOT being bought out by MS or any other company, they could find themselves in the same Palm boat if they aren’t careful and get it back on track.

Let’s face it though.  Nokia is NOT Palm.  Nokia isn’t using HTC as a silent OEM partner; but they DO need a clear vision and direction over the next few years, or they are definitely going to find themselves on the fast track to holding the short end of the stick. While I feel that Nokia has a better chance at pulling themselves out of the slump they’re in, I’m not sure if WP7 is the partner to do it. I know they considered Android; and that may still be a viable alternative, especially if their MeeGo-Linux effort (which Nokia says it will continue) doesn’t gain the traction it needs.

In the end, its going to come down to just a few key points.

  • Can MS make and keep WP7 relevant?
  • Will the combination of Nokia hardware and MS software create something YOU will want to invest in, LONG term (and I mean invest in, like Compaq iPAQ invest in…I had EVERY iPAQ from the 3150 to the 5400, over a period of about 6 years)
  • How influential is Nokia development going to be on MS WP7 and later?  Will Nokia’s development team help drive feature development or will the partnership be too MS slanted?

We’ll have to wait and see. I hope that I get a chance to review one of the devices should they make it to The States on my carrier (currently T-Mobile).  It might be cool to do a MS-Palm/MS-Nokia kind of comparison…

1 Comment on Is Nokia following in Palm’s Footsteps?

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