Nokia’s all-or-nothing move to embrace Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform as its smartphone future has certainly caught the attention of the mobile world—but not everyone is impressed. In an interviews at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, executives from Verizon Wireless and Motorola tried to be diplomatic about how they viewed the prospects for Nokia handsets with Windows Phone 7…and largely failed, essentially saying Microsoft and Nokia are going to have to turn water to wine if their partnership is to have any significant impact on the mobile market.
Earlier this week, Motorola indicated the company has all but shut the door on the notion of making Windows Phone handsets, saying it’s very comfortable being the only company with its entire lineup built around Android. Although some of Motorola’s decision to skip the Windows Phone platform had to do with timing—it just wasn’t ready when Motorola needed it—Motorola executive VP Christy Wyatt also indicated the locked-down nature of Windows Phone turned Motorola off, turning Motorola into essentially an OEM for a Microsoft platform that offered commodity hardware to consumers. “We would like an opportunity to create unique value and we don’t feel we could with a closed platform.”
Nokia allegedly will be working around the roped-off nature of Windows Phone by having the exclusive ability to customize WIndows Phone: according to Phone Scoop Nokia says it will have a free hand to customize Windows Phone 7, although any deep changes will be pushed back to Microsoft to be included in the broader Windows Phone platform available to all handset makers. Although that means any innovations Nokia sneaks under the hood won’t be exclusive to Nokia, it does mean that Nokia isn’t likely to be significantly lagging in its ability to update handsets to new versions of WIndows Phone. That could be a significant benefit—just ask the myriad Android handset owners still waiting to upgrade to Android 2.2 “Froyo.”
However, more troubling for the Microsoft-Nokia partnership may come from U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless, whose response to the deal seems tepid at best. In an interview with Cnet, Verizon’s CTO Tony Melone indicated that the company would love to see a third major platform in the smartphone market, but seemed to hold out little hope that Windows Phone would make the grade.
“I think it would take a really compelling device from Nokia or any new vendor to break in. It doesn’t mean that it can’t happen, but it would have to be really good,” said Melone. “I don’t think Verizon needs the Nokia and Microsoft relationship.”
To be fair, Nokia abandoned its CDMA business back in 2006 and the company is not currently a handset partner with Verizon. However, if Nokia wants to re-establish its presence in the North American market, it’s almost certainly going to have to reach out to the top mobile operator in the United States.