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With this phone, I thee wed: How the Nokia-Microsoft union changes everything

Brad Chacos | April 28, 2014
There's no getting cold feet now. On Friday, Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's device business will be official, after months of delays and regulatory hurdles. The remnants of Nokia will get a whopping $7.2 billion. In return, Microsoft will get 32,000 new employees, a legion of Lumias, and oh yeah, those funky Android-based Nokia X phones.

There's no getting cold feet now. On Friday, Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's device business will be official, after months of delays and regulatory hurdles. The remnants of Nokia will get a whopping $7.2 billion. In return, Microsoft will get 32,000 new employees, a legion of Lumias, and oh yeah, those funky Android-based Nokia X phones.

So what?

Sure, Microsoft and Nokia each stand to gain (or lose) billions from the deal. But why does that matter to you? What should you and I hope to see from the Microkia conglomerate, in terms of Windows Phones and devices that we can actually touch and hold and feel? I'm glad you asked.

More, and more polished, Windows Phones?

Let's get this out of the way: Windows Phone has an adoption problem. And since Nokia controls a stunning 93 percent of the Windows Phone market, that means Nokia has an adoption problem, too.

And to be frank, that's not much of a surprise. While it's always been slick-looking, Windows Phone has nevertheless felt half-baked compared to Android and iOS. Users largely steered clear, which made it even easier for most manufacturers to do the same. Microsoft made the phone makers' decision all the easier because of its insistence on charging for a Windows Phone license. Meanwhile, Google gave away Android — an operating system that people actually wanted — for free.

The acquisition changes everything, though.

While Microsoft was always motivated to make Windows Phone a success from a high-level ecosystem perspective, it now has $7.2 billion reasons to make damn sure that Nokia's phones actually sell now, too. Surprise! Since the Nokia merger was announced, Microsoft's rolled out Windows Phone 8.1, a sweeping update that finally achieves feature parity with iOS and Android and finally gives Nokia's beautiful hardware a software backbone that's just as alluring.

Mere moments after announcing Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft also announced that Windows Phone licenses will be free for all handset makers, in a bid to quell Nokia's uneasy competitors. Considering that most manufacturers pay Microsoft a license fee when they sell an Android handset, rolling out a Windows Phone may be cheaper than using a supposedly "free" Android license — which would only encourage phone makers to pump out more Windows Phones, especially in developing countries where cost is a concern.

More and better Windows Phone apps?

Nokia's been at the forefront of pushing developers to create Windows Phone apps — perhaps with even more success than Microsoft's own efforts — and has developed several top-notch Windows Phone apps of their own, such as Nokia MixRadio, various Nokia Camera apps, the augmented reality City Lens, and more.

 

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