Cybernaut 

Nokia's big gamble

Disclaimer: I currently own a Nokia phone, a basic pay-as-you-go handset from 7-11. And I like it. It came free after purchasing $100 in minutes and I pay $50 every three to four months or so for around 200 minutes of talk time. It takes an hour to charge and because I don't use it much I only have to charge it every 10 days to two weeks. If I ever lose it (and I lose or break everything eventually) I won't shed any tears.

Can you say the same about your iPhone? (I can't say the same thing about my $350 iPod Touch, which was dropped in the snow on the weekend and is currently not working. And yes, I've tried the rice trick.)

Still, there's no denying that Nokia's star has fallen pretty far. Once upon a time the Finnish telecom was THE default phone brand. But the company somehow missed the entire smart phone revolution, continuing to crank out phones in an era where most people think of touch screens, accelerometers, web browsing, ebooks, games, multimedia, apps and email.

Nokia is looking to get back into the game in a big way, and last week announced plans to partner with Microsoft to launch a line of smart phones that use the Windows Phone 7 platform.

That should have been good news, but Nokia's shares actually dropped after the announcement. Whether that's a rejection of Nokia's business plans or of Windows Phone 7 is fair to debate, but most analysts were kind enough to note that Nokia was already heading for history's dustbin before the announcement and that an alliance with Microsoft could ultimately save the company - if the new phones are any good.

Maybe I'm an optimist, but I had a chance a few weeks ago to play with a phone running Windows Phone 7 and it was pretty slick - I liked the look and feel, it was easy to get around, multi-tasking was easy and the integration with Zune, Xbox Live and Microsoft Office was first-rate. It was no iPhone 4, but it was a better overall experience than I've seen so far on an Android phone.

There's a tendency in the tech world to write companies off, and it's never fair or accurate. For example, Palm didn't disappear and the platform looks stronger than ever with HP announcing new phones, tablets and an upgrade to WebOS 3.0. Research In Motion was also written off, but while the company is losing market share they're still doing pretty well and getting into the tablet market as well. Microsoft was read its funeral rites after Vista came out but with Windows 7 the company is making a comeback and stealing back market share, while the Xbox 360 is doing very well (especially with Kinect) and is the platform most companies want to develop games for in the current generation - yes, Nintendo sold a lot more Wiis, but Wii owners aren't buying many games that don't have Mario or on the cover.

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