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BLOG: BlackBerry and Nokia: The perils of a closed strategy

Simon Phipps | Oct. 1, 2013
Had Nokia or BlackBerry countered Apple's closed ecosystem with an open strategy, things might have worked out differently

The open challenge
Meanwhile, Mozilla is quietly building the Firefox phone. It's an open strategy, leveraging open standards and existing HTML5 development to quickly grow a developer market. The low price point and open platform appeal to phone buyers. The no-strings approach appeals to mobile carriers in emerging economies. Despite working with open source software, open standards, and low-lock-in business arrangements, Mozilla has a smouldering success on its hands.

Both Nokia and BlackBerry could have taken a similar, open path. Nokia even flirted with open source technologies multiple times in the form of Symbian, then the Maemo-Meego-Tizen family of platforms. Despite public postures declaring each to be "the big bet," they failed to build an open developer ecosystem due to internal politics and conservatism. As a result, the rich opportunities of these high-profile open source platforms was squandered.

Instead, Nokia now becomes Microsoft's Hail Mary pass in an attempt to copy Apple's closed strategy in the mobile market. It leaves a residual technology licensing company designed for litigating against Microsoft's competitors. BlackBerry looks likely to be valued mainly for its patent portfolio; I predict it will either be bought to enrich someone's defensive arsenal or become a source of ammunition for the sniper rifle of a patent troll.

Open companies leverage the organic marketplace open technologies and open standards create. They aggregate market power by permitting a long tail to develop. They adapt with the changing marketplace and continue to succeed. Closed companies try to control the technologies and standards they believe create their income, and lose when the market morphs. If you want to win in the emerging market of the meshed society, you'll need to tame your fears of lack of control and win with open strategies.



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