Since Nokia announced it was dropping its home grown Symbian OS for Windows Phone 7, a lot of speculation has been swirling over what their future looks like or whether they have any future at all.
I say Nokia has no future. Since WP7 has already proven to be a flop, it doesn't look good. It's the old and often foolish business strategy of combining two weak companies (or products), in order to form a strong one. It hardly ever works.
But with their decision made, there are two fundamental problems Nokia now faces:
1) It's going to be at least a year, perhaps more, before Nokia ships WP7 phones. It takes time for engineers to develop the hardware. It takes just as much or more time for their programmers to get WP7 and pre-installed apps working. There's a ton of work required to integrate Nokia's Ovi store (apps and media) and WP7's market place and;
2) Nokia will continue to sell Symbian smart phones right up until they ship WP7 and essentially cancel Symbian development.
The second problem is a particularly disastrous one for Nokia's customers. In essence, any smartphone running Symbian is a lame duck product. It's dead. To paraphrase Nokia's new CEO, Stephen Elop, Symbian is a burning oil platform that Nokia is jumping from and leaving behind to die.
And now for the arrogance of a company that's enjoyed a monopolistic share of the smartphone market for a long time: Nokia outright assumes that people will buy their lame duck phones out of brand loyalty. They also assume that retailers will continue to stock their lame duck phones, but that's a different story.
If their strategy is to keep selling phones running an end-of-life OS based on brand loyalty, that loyalty will be permanently erased about a year or so from now. When Nokia ships WP7 phones, every Symbian smart phone customer will feel duped when they realize Nokia has abandoned the OS their phone runs on. There won't be upgrades from Symbian to WP7 because they run on different hardware. Symbian apps won't run under WP7 and developers aren't going to create new apps for a dead OS.
If you're buying a Nokia smartphone today, you're buying a brick. No upgrades, no new apps, what you get out of the box is essentially it.
Nokia then, is truly desperate and ultimately unscrupulous. They're willing to dump a dead product on anyone foolish enough to buy it. Nokia got usurped by Apple and undercut by Android. They had no idea what was coming and while they watched the iPhone sell off the shelves, their revenues plunged 93% from 2008-2009. Obviously, no company can operate for very long without revenue and there lies the motivation for what Nokia's doing: It needs cash. It needs loyal customers to buy their dead products. It needs it's burning platform to keep pumping oil long enough build a new one.
That's why Nokia is a dead man walking. They're years late to the party; competitors have already eaten their lunch money; they're adopting Windows Phone 7 which is already a flop; Microsoft has paid them billions to do so in order to keep the doors open; they're selling dead products to loyal customers and; they're at least a year away from launching a platform that's years behind Apple's iOS.
So good luck, Nokia. You're going to kill off a swath of potential WP7 customers by subjecting them to Symbian. Selling Symbian phones will motivate customers to try other platforms. And it's diluting the hell out of your brand. Loyalty among iPhone users is over 90%. And you're going to hand over loyal customers with a short sighted plan to keep selling dead products. You've had time to catch up but either didn't feel the need or didn't know how. Either way, the party's over.
If I were a betting man, I'd say Nokia has between two and three years to live. We'll see what the future holds for Nokia, but the writing plastered all over the wall, reads clearly.