6 things to expect in mobile from Microsoft's Nokia acquisition
Devin Coldewey | Published: Sep 7, 2013 at 11:46:39 UTC57
So Microsoft has bought the best bits of Nokia, and given their already cozy relationship, the two companies will likely be working as one much more quickly than, say, Google and Motorola did. What can we expect from the next couple years of this intriguing mashup?
#1. Pureview rolls out en masse
One of the few things Nokia is truly known for in the modern smartphone market is actually innovating in the camera space. Most skeptics of the 41-megapixel Pureview sensor have been silenced by its versatility and image quality. Sure, there's work to be done in speeding it up and adding features, but the core technology is unique and powerful.
Microsoft knows this adds a big card to their hand, and Pureview will almost certainly be a flagship feature of Windows Phones from now on. It won't be on every device, but you can be sure it's going to hit a lot more models than just the top-end superphones.
#2. Windows slums it at the low end
Shipping dumbphones with a dead-end OS doesn't fit Microsoft's plan to nibble away at the smartphone market. Nokia's approach has led to years of decline, but they still have reach, especially in emerging markets. Microsoft will want to use this reach to put some kind of Windows Phone device in the hands of someone trying to decide between a Samsung flip-phone and a Nokia Asha.
This won't be easy — but it may be a better fit for a cut-down version of an OS than in the disastrous Windows RT tablets. A Windows Phone "lite" running on cheap hardware could put millions into Microsoft's world of services.
A side effect of this will be an attempt to freeze Android out of the budget segment. Every month, Android phones get closer and closer to supplanting dumbphones in massive markets like India and China. Offering a killer low-end phone will halt the enemy's progress and boost friendly ranks.
#3. Photos get a social and cloud boost
Microsoft may have recently updated its Skydrive service with better photo options, but they're still lagging far behind Apple and Google when it comes to a smooth, connected photo-taking and sharing experience. Microsoft should be bending over backwards to make sure apps like Instagram and Vine are available on Windows Phone, while pushing connections with Facebook to the maximum. Why, for example, isn't Binging all your and your friends' Facebook photos and tags already a homepage action? And why is WP always the last to be supported by the cool new thing?
Nokia has a lot of thoughtful software engineers who have built accessible, innovative apps over the last few years, and they may combine with Microsoft's vast ecosystem of services to make something powerful. Or at least, it's possible.
#4. Skype everywhere
Microsoft has been waiting for a way to extend the mobile reach of Skype for a long time, and this is a great opportunity. Include it (with some sort of sweet data deal) on every Windows Phone as an answer to FaceTime and Google Hangouts and watch as users stick with the default. Want to bet every phone Microsoft sells starting a year from now has dual cameras?
#5. Industry acquaintances get the cold shoulder
After an initial (and largely ineffective) push, companies like Samsung and LG have offered only lukewarm support of Microsoft's newer platforms. Microsoft thanked them both with the self-produced Surface tablets, and by partnering for all intents and purposes exclusively with Nokia. Expect this frosty relationship to chill even further now that Microsoft has no particular need for their design and manufacturing prowess.
#6. "Nokia" will stick around
A few comments have been made about the branding of devices: Microsoft Windows Phone Nokia Lumia 1020 is about four words too long, and many have suggested that "Nokia" is on the chopping block. That's doubtful. Nokia is one of the most well-recognized mobile brands in the world, and has many positive associations. Windows Phone and Lumia are newer and more mixed. Moreover, callously retiring a cherished and valuable brand would be very bad PR.
No, Microsoft's best move is to make sure that "Nokia" is solely associated with Windows, so much so that they don't have to say it in the name. If anything, "Nokia" will be the last brand standing when it comes to what's actually advertised. Intel, after all, didn't tell Dell to call their computers "Intel Pentium Inspirons"... yet "Intel Inside" is a brand that persists to this day, while "Inspiron" is virtually without cachet. Google relaunched Motorola rather than absorb it.