With its new strategy, Nokia is hoping to put an end to a downward spiral that started in 2007, the year in which the first version of Apple's iPhone arrived and Google announced Android.
At the time, Nokia's smartphone market share was almost 50 percent for the full year, compared to Apple's 2.7 percent, according to Gartner. The first Android-based phone still hadn't arrived. But by the fourth quarter of 2010, Nokia's market share had dropped to 30.8 percent, Android had caught up and Apple had increased its market share to 16 percent.
Friday's change is an admission that its own platform has faltered, and by going with Windows Phone 7, the company is no longer in control of its own destiny, Wood said.
But with Windows Phone 7, Nokia will have access to an operating system that can compete with Apple's iPhone and Android -- something the company hasn't been able to produce itself, Pete Cunningham, principal analyst at Canalys, said in an interview earlier this week.
The big question is how Nokia is going to differentiate its products from other Windows Phone 7 smartphones.
One area it may do that is in the services its phones offer. The partnership with Microsoft goes much further in that area than anyone had anticipated, according to Wood. That will likely give Nokia more influence than other licensees over that element of the platform, he said.
Windows Phone 7 is far from a safe bet, however, as it, together with Microsoft's older Windows Mobile OS, only managed to grab 3.4 percent of the smartphone market during the fourth quarter, according to Gartner.
That Windows Phone hasn't seen a spectacular take-up is partly due to the fact that it isn't the priority for any vendor at the moment. Samsung, LG and HTC are all focused on Android ahead of Windows Phone 7.
That may change as Nokia brings to bear its channel network and production capacity. Microsoft is also partnering with a company seemingly willing to put all its might behind Windows Phone 7 in the high-end smartphone segment.
There is no silver bullet for either company, given the strength of iPhone and Android, CCS Insight said in a research note.
On Friday, Nokia also announced that as of April 1 it will have a new company structure. The Smart Devices unit will produce high-end smart phones running Windows Phone 7, and will also manage the company's Symbian and Meego activities. The Mobile Phones unit will produce mass-market mobile phones, Nokia said.
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