Recently, Nokia’s CEO released a memo in which he admitted that Nokia’s Symbian platform has been thoroughly defeated by Smartphones, and the iPhone in particular. Since then, Nokia and Microsoft have gotten together and announced that Nokia will be adopting Windows Phone 7 as it’s primary platform.
According to Scoble, and with CultofMac largely agreeing, this move will make a tremendous difference in Nokia’s (and Windows Phone 7’s) success, leading to better hardware, a more complete and compelling development community, a much better (and thoroughly established) distribution channel for Windows Phone 7 devices, better off-the-ground App support (via Microsoft’s X-Box Live, etc.), and so forth.
So, Nokia and Microsoft are about to become much more successful in the mobile phone market, with each company providing ideas and input to improve the other. That’s nice, but how is this great for everyone? More importantly, how is this great for users of the iPhone and other iOS devices? The answer is simple: Competition.
Disagree if you like, but right now I do not consider Apple as having any really serious threats to their platform. Sure, Android is slick, functional, and has a large number of Apps… But most iPhone users are unlikely to ever be truly satisfied with the device, as it provides a very different type of experience than they are used to. Android users are likewise unlikely to switch to the iPhone, for similar reasons.
In a world where no platform is really able to go head-to-head with iOS, all innovations in the smartphone market should be encouraged. If nobody is able to truly meet Apple’s lofty standard and release a truly compelling platform that Apple users can appreciate, then there is a significant threat that Apple will become complacent and stop innovating at such a rapid rate as they have been in previous years. The more quality competition that arises against Apple, the more they will be forced to continue to actively innovate at a rapid rate.
In addition, in a world where several strong, independant, and truly competitive platforms are at odds, there is a much greater chance for each platform involved to “learn” from it’s peers. Under this type of a market, all of the competitors in the smartphone race would improve, taking selective hints an either implementing them, or (hopefully) improving them.
Sure, I have a bias here, and that bias is towards Apple – but that is only because I consider them to have the most complete technological smartphone platform available today. I’d love to meet a non-apple smartphone that amazes me to the point where I question my loyalty to Apple – and the same goes for other forms of technology. Give me a better laptop that can do more than my MacBook Pro can do, is built to the same or better quality standard, and can offer up an interface that is just as intuitive or more so, and I’d switch teams in a heartbeat.
So in the end, it’s not even about Apple, at least not directly. The reason that the Apple/Nokia arrangement will work, and the reason that arrangements like these (when they unite against a stronger common “enemy”) are so beneficial is that they foster innovation not merely for the sake of innovation – they foster innovation by force. In the end, it’s the greater technology community that wins through the availability of much better technologies coming forth at much more competitive prices.
In short, innovation is that crossroads where societal demand and industry competition meet to do battle. Microsoft, Nokia, Google, RIM – Fight the good fight. Replace my iPhone. You just might succeed – but even if you don’t, your efforts will be duly noted by history, and by technology users everywhere