Two years later, Nokia's still expecting the impossible from Microsoft

Two years later, Nokia's still expecting the impossible from Microsoft

Partnerships are great when things are going well, but when they're not it's all too easy to point the finger.

Which is exactly what Nokia vice president Bryan Biniak has done, suggesting the main reasons the Windows Phone partnership with Microsoft has failed to really take off are failings on the US firm's side.

And let's be clear: despite whatever reasons for optimism you might have (such as “at least Nokia's not in BlackBerry's shoes right now”), even Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop themselves have all but openly admitted it hasn't entirely gone to plan so far.

So what's Biniak's beef?

Mainly that while the WP arrangement is make or break for Nokia, Microsoft's primary focus is actually Windows and PCs, plus there's the gaming thing too with the Xbox.

Those were already there when Nokia agreed the deal in the first place of course, but anyway. Biniak points at how Microsoft muscled in on the console game alongside Sony and Nintendo by introducing exclusives like Halo, and suggests the same is needed to get Windows Phone fighting on the same terms as iOS and Android.

“To give you a reason to switch, I need to make sure the apps that you care about on your device are not only on our phones, but are better,” he told the International Business Times last week. “I also need to provide you unique experiences that you can't get on your other devices.”

Two problems. First, mobile apps are not games. Well sometimes they are, obviously, but still. The most downloaded apps on mobile platforms are free or extremely cheap, mainly by being either affiliated to existing online services or companies (like Facebook, Whatsapp etc) or having the massive user numbers you only get by being on the most popular platforms (and not just one of them, either).

You simply can't muscle in by offering true game-changing exclusives.

And the second problem is to whatever extent you can even try, Microsoft is already doing. It offers more up-front developer incentives than either iOS and Android by a long shot (well, except the promise of large download numbers) – in fact, both Nokia and Microsoft could hardly spend any more cash on incentives and marketing right the way through their 'ecosystem'.

Where Biniak was right, though, was in pointing to apps not present on Windows Phone at all as being a major hurdle to gaining new users. Once again he suggested Microsoft was to blame, in that the company's culture just wasn't compatible with the faster pace of mobile.

“We are releasing new devices frequently and for every new device, if there is an app that somebody cares about that's not there that's a missed opportunity of a sale,” Biniak reasoned.

“We are trying to evolve the cultural thinking [at Microsoft] to say 'time is of the essence'. Waiting until the end of your fiscal year when you need to close your targets, doesn't do us any good when I have phones to sell today.

“You can't sell a phone without the apps, you just can't,” he continued.

“People rely on applications for their day-to-day life and if you don't have something which I use in my day-to-day life I'm not going to switch [operating systems] because I don't want to compromise the way I live my life just to switch to a phone.

“It's not just about the hardware, it's about the tools that are on the hardware.”

At the same time Biniak claims there isn't a single developer on the planet who has created an “important app” who Nokia and Microsoft aren't talking to, and says any gaps in the WP portfolio will soon be filled.

Reading between the lines (always a subjective exercise, I'll freely admit), it seems Biniak's frustrations are that Nokia is doing absolutely everything it can, and all indications are it's just not enough.

Maybe the writing was on the wall anyway after the mistakes of the second half of the last decade, but the reality is that Nokia gave up full control of its destiny when it partnered with Microsoft, and there's no point in raising concerns now that were already evident then.

Read more about: Windows Phone

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16 comments

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 29, 2013 at 19:13

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

There is nothing more Nokia CAN do. Seriously.
The problem is M$'s OS! On the plus side: it's fast, smooth and solid. And funnily enough, that is the problem. A £100 WP8 device or Nokia's beastly 1020... all run in more or less the same way. Great. And then Nokia get ridiculed for talking about its cameras only.... what else can they talk about? Tiles? Wallpaper? Faucets?

There are still so many restrictions on Windows Phone that iOS appears like a wild child at a hippie camp.
Add M$'s Secureboot which makes WP devices an absolute no-no for tweakers and rooters and hackers, and what do you get? No BUZZ!

Imagine reviewing phones day in and day out, and you get the WP portfolio... What can you say?

Nokia could fit invisible wings to the next Lumia and make it capable of aerial photography...
heck, they could include free p*rn, and they still wouldn't get over the, ahem, hump...

Of course, one could argue that all that IS Nokia's problem. Since they chose WP. But M$ shouldn't make said argument :p

nickkelly  Jul. 29, 2013 at 19:36

Its surprising these highly paid executives can only see these things in hindsight. Many of Nokias biggest supporters before they abandoned their own operating systems for WP three years ago could see all this coming. I'd buy a Nokia phone with Android, Sailfish, Meego, etc without any hesitation but I'll never buy a Windows phone.

The last comment
(..but the reality is that Nokia gave up full control of its destiny when it partnered with Microsoft, and there's no point in raising concerns now that were already evident then.)
is absolutely true, they gave up their ability to direct their own future when they became dependent on MS OS, it didn't make any sense to me 3 years ago and it still makes no sense now.

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 29, 2013 at 19:37

Agree, nick...

mightyforest  Jul. 29, 2013 at 20:37

The futures bright

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 29, 2013 at 21:43

The futures bright

Yep. At least they beat Blackberry...

Seriously though, using the Lumia 820 I kept thinking, "what an excellent midranger this could be". And I think the 620 etc have a lot going for them, too. As do the Ativ S, 8S and 8X. And I'd love the 925 or 1020 for the camera/s...but I'd like those things in a phone that isn't more restrictive than travel through eastern Germany in the 70s.

Microsoft need to open it up! And the Nokia/WP fanboys must stop defending the nonsense - same way iOS fans need to keep pushing Apple.

But, alas... that ain't happening. Not any time soon.

matt101101 / MOD  Jul. 29, 2013 at 22:36

The futures bright

Yep. At least they beat Blackberry...

Seriously though, using the Lumia 820 I kept thinking, "what an excellent midranger this could be". And I think the 620 etc have a lot going for them, too. As do the Ativ S, 8S and 8X. And I'd love the 925 or 1020 for the camera/s...but I'd like those things in a phone that isn't more restrictive than travel through eastern Germany in the 70s.

Microsoft need to open it up! And the Nokia/WP fanboys must stop defending the nonsense - same way iOS fans need to keep pushing Apple.

But, alas... that ain't happening. Not any time soon.

Yep, I couldn't agree more. If you're going to buy a WP device, make it a cheap one, the more expensive models really don't offer much more in the way of features or performance.

SpeedyG  Jul. 29, 2013 at 22:47

Microsoft still think iOS control like features are the future so I don't see them opening up secure-access I'm afraid. I mean we can talk about Android's openess but it's a security risk and pretty much someone leaving their front door open and leaving the keys on the step with the plans to the house where all the valuables and kids playing their PlayStations and x-boxes are.

mightyforest  Jul. 29, 2013 at 22:54

If keeping windows under lock and key means we dont have to suffer the risks and constant freezing/bugs/slow downs/memory eating apps like android then im all for it. Its one of the things that keeps me with WP even though i have an android device for work i much prefer wp

satchef1  Jul. 29, 2013 at 23:19

Its surprising these highly paid executives can only see these things in hindsight. Many of Nokias biggest supporters before they abandoned their own operating systems for WP three years ago could see all this coming. I'd buy a Nokia phone with Android, Sailfish, Meego, etc without any hesitation but I'll never buy a Windows phone.

The last comment
(..but the reality is that Nokia gave up full control of its destiny when it partnered with Microsoft, and there's no point in raising concerns now that were already evident then.)
is absolutely true, they gave up their ability to direct their own future when they became dependent on MS OS, it didn't make any sense to me 3 years ago and it still makes no sense now.


Ask 100 people to quess what number you are going to roll on a set of dice. Odds on some of them will be right. Did they know what you were going to roll? Or did they just guess right? How many people will say to themselves 'damn, I knew I should have chosen Six!'?

Thousands of people can now claim to have seen the 2008 financial crash coming. How many actually knew before the fact, understood the reasons why and made some effort to change the future? How many people predicted it for the wrong reasons? How many are just trying to be smug know-it-alls?

Hindsight is beautiful. It legitimises ideas in to facts. When you're in control of a multi-billion dollar company and have two deals on the table, with all of the appropriate facts, figures and forecasts in front of you, you have to make a decision - left or right? It isn't about the opinionated crap that you find on your average mobile forum. It's about cold, hard cashflow. The appropriate question is; based on the available facts at the time, was the decision the correct (read: logical) one? Reviewing decisions in hindsight is a fools game - it only ever serves to make a hero of the opinionated speculator. Cast the net wide enough and you will always find people who (due to their own personal paradigms, and baring no relation to boardroom facts) will have made the correct prediction.

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 29, 2013 at 23:41

If keeping windows under lock and key means we dont have to suffer the risks and constant freezing/bugs/slow downs/memory eating apps like android then im all for it. Its one of the things that keeps me with WP even though i have an android device for work i much prefer wp

A file manager? Easily accessible settings? Those are NOT security risks if done right.
Via fileshare in iTunes iOS is actually more convenient.
I'm not defending Android. I really don't like it much. But 2 wrongs don't make a right.
This is about WP. Before WP Microsoft had WinMo. It was secure, but it was more open than iOS, WP and un-rooted Android.

Anyway, if you are happy with what WP lets you do, I'm happy for you. Good phones for half-decent money.
I want a bit more, though, and judging by sales figures I'm not alone.
It's not a problem for me that I don't like WP as it is.
I should add that I disagree, also, with most Nokia/WP-haters.
Thhey usually generalise and cherrypick. And often they know nothing about WP or Symbian for that matter.

satchef1  Jul. 30, 2013 at 00:00

If keeping windows under lock and key means we dont have to suffer the risks and constant freezing/bugs/slow downs/memory eating apps like android then im all for it. Its one of the things that keeps me with WP even though i have an android device for work i much prefer wp

A file manager? Easily accessible settings? Those are NOT security risks if done right.
Via fileshare in iTunes iOS is actually more convenient.
I'm not defending Android. I really don't like it much. But 2 wrongs don't make a right.
This is about WP. Before WP Microsoft had WinMo. It was secure, but it was more open than iOS, WP and un-rooted Android.

Anyway, if you are happy with what WP lets you do, I'm happy for you. Good phones for half-decent money.
I want a bit more, though, and judging by sales figures I'm not alone.
It's not a problem for me that I don't like WP as it is.
I should add that I disagree, also, with most Nokia/WP-haters.
Thhey usually generalise and cherrypick. And often they know nothing about WP or Symbian for that matter.


Well said.

There's plenty of room for Windows Phone to improve when it comes to file management. It's absolutely awful at the moment. Just give us access to four locations on the drive and so many problems would be solved; music, videos, pictures and documents. If those locations could be accessed by all applications, and were manageable using a traditional file manager, a lot of problems would disappear overnight. Right now, every application seems to have its own area for storing files, with the only unity coming from Skydrive. It's messy. Why can't we just have central locations, navigate ourselves to the file and choose 'Open with...' or 'Edit' (for changing filenames, metadata etc.).

They desperately need to find some way to differentiate high-end devices too. As said already, performance is so consistent across WP devices that manufacturers are essentially asking users for 4x the retail price of a low-end handset just to provide a nicer camera. Yes, there are other differences in spec, but these differences are no good if they aren't meaningful to the customer. The chipset restrictions really aren't helping - how on Earth are Nokia and co supposed to differentiate when they have a choice of dual-core krait or... dual-core krait?

That leads in to the final question... what happened to the Windows Phone team? In June 2009 they started work on WP7 (the modern WP7, not the Windows Mobile based one). They built that OS from the ground-up in 18 months, followed it up with a series up minor and major updates while also building WP8. Then, about a year ago, the wheels started to come off. Windows Phone 8 got delayed, then the updates were delayed. It's strange. Did they suddenly suffer a funding cut? It seems like they achieved a lot in the first three years, but since then they've been crippled. Windows Phone is very capable - it just needs that little push beyond where it is. Feature parity with iOS and Android (as far as is necessary) is within spitting distance, yet the next major update is 6 months away (bringing features that many expected to see with WP8 at launch).

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 30, 2013 at 02:20

Yep. It is puzzling. Now you get "camera phones" with impressive hardware, but the gallery doesn't even show image details such as file size, date taken, etc... Nevermind editing said data LOL
It's very odd. And it is beyond me how certain vocal WP evangelists and Lumia fans just talk those things away.

satchef1  Jul. 30, 2013 at 12:02

To be honest, I never actually had issue with music, video or photo management on WP. I can see the problems and understand the grumbles, but many of them never actually affected me. I didn't realise you couldn't look at photo metadata until you mentioned it. Likewise, on another forum someone was complaining about not being able to edit music metadata. I hadn't realised that you couldn't do that either. It's quite easy to see how some people can't see the problems - they often haven't stumbled upon them and often they aren't things that bother that user. They aren't ignorant - they just have simple needs.

JanSt / MOD  Jul. 30, 2013 at 12:59

True. That is why I keep saying, for so-and-so such-and-such may well be the best choice... This is no missionary position. I'm not trying to convert anyone.

SpeedyG  Jul. 30, 2013 at 19:33

It's obvious to any layman, even the stupid fanboys what WP8 needs.

I just don't understand why Microsoft are so behind and half assed about the updates and get a seperate team to handle it all away from the company.

Not really a self-sufficient operation. Just held back by MS Bloat as always.

satchef1  Jul. 30, 2013 at 22:50

Its possibly got something to do with all of the money they are making. Despite the low numbers, Microsoft make more money from Windows Phone (including patent licensing) than Google make from Android. Windows Phone gaining market share is something that Microsoft want, but they don't seem to be in a rush to get it - they can coast on by, working on the next version of Windows Phone in the background.

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