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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.

By this point, the Windows Phone Store will likely never catch up to the sheer app numbers of the Play or App Stores, even with the new "buy once, play on any device" universal app push. But many of the biggest-name apps are already appearing on Windows Phone, thanks partly to Nokia's constant prodding.

Now that Microsoft needs to sell some phones — and perhaps now that Nokia's marketing and outreach team has access to Microsoft's vast war chest — the drive to stock the app store could intensify, especially with Windows Phone starting to grow nicely in developing markets.

And if more of the slickly designed Lumia apps started meandering into the Windows Phone store after an exclusive delay of a few months, well, that'd be a fine development, too.

A more integrated Windows Phone experience?

By controlling the software and the hardware of the vast majority of Windows Phones, Microsoft can now create a more tailored, integrated experience for mobile users — think Google's Nexus devices or Apple's iPhone, or a smaller version of Microsoft's own Surface tablet.

While Microsoft still needs to cater to the needs of other Windows Phone manufacturers, Microsoft now has a template for designing its own Windows Phones. For example, the Lumia line's excellent cameras are a key advantage over rival phones. Windows Phone could be fine-tuned to make photo editing and sharing even more seamless than it is now, to play to that strength. PureView everywhere!

But let's get speculative. Between the widespread shift to the Metro UI and the newly introduced universal apps endeavor, Microsoft is already nearing the "Windows Everywhere" experience it so desperately wants to attain. Given that, perhaps Microsoft will start adding more photo-enhancement tools to Windows itself — or maybe even the Xbox — to play to Nokia's strengths. It would be great to snap a picture with your Lumia and, aided by OneDrive, turn that image into the background for your Xbox or Windows setup. 

Better all-around design from Microsoft

All that app and experience talk segues nicely into the next thing we could see. Microsoft needs to work on its design. Nokia can help.

Yes, the Surface tablets — like Microsoft's vast array of PC peripherals — are finely constructed pieces of hardware, despite being somewhat thick. But geez, they're cold: stark, sleek testaments to Windows 8's inherent possibilities, hewn from a slab of impersonal VaporMg. Even worse, disastrous software updates for those very tablets were pushed out before the holidays, sapping their battery life. And, well, the less said about Windows 8's UI, the better. (Though it is improving, slowly but surely.)

Contrast that to Nokia's wares: Every Lumia phone is an aesthetic marvel, and its apps are just as thoughtful. This company just plain gets everyday users. It'd be utterly magnificent if some of Nokia's famous Finnish attention to detail seeped into the rest of Microsoft — and utterly tragic if Nokia's designers lost their flair for the fantastic after being consumed by Microsoft.

 

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