It’s been an eventful year for Microsoft and Nokia. In February, the two heavyweights joined hands to forge a new mobile ecosystem, simply mobile-speak for creating a worthy competitor to Google and Apple in the current market. The Finnish giant subsequently posted significant losses in the second quarter, mostly considered as a short-term obstacle in its arduous uphill journey back to respectability.
In April, Microsoft took stock of the first year of WP7 existence and there was little fanfare, little innovation, and frankly, little interest. By September, the alarm bells were ringing at both companies and Nokia moved swiftly into action stating it would launch a WP7 device in time for the holiday season. By then, critics had already begun to question if the whole Nokia-Microsoft-Windows Phone plan was headed for disaster and whether it would help the Finnish giant regain lost ground in the smartphone market?
Nokia subsequently launched the Lumia series and backed by Microsoft’s prowess, the who’s who of the carrier fraternity including AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon eagerly stated their intentions to taste the new fruit. Surely, the time is now for Microsoft Windows Phone?
Then, why is the Windows Phone team suffering from some very serious internal turbulence, especially at a time when it should be working round the clock for the Lumia launch? Is there a ‘Windows Phone power shift‘ at play between Microsoft and Nokia? Is the Microsoft-Nokia Windows Phone honeymoon already in trouble?
Last week, Microsoft’s outspoken CEO Steve Ballmer shocked the mobile fraternity by sacking Andy Lees’ from his role at the top of the Windows Phone org chart. Though Ballmer tried to cover it up saying “work for me on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8,” the writing was on the wall ever since Ballmer publicly admitted that he wasn’t pleased with the reaction from partners and developers and that Windows Phone wasn’t selling as many as he would have liked in the first year.
It’s believed that Lees has a history of fostering tense relationships with Microsoft’s OEM partners and the Redmond giant can’t risk any hiccups in its alliance with Nokia at this crucial juncture. Lee has been replaced by Terry Myerson who previously ran the Windows Phone’s engineering side. In fact, Lees isn’t the only high profile departure from the Windows Phone team. Matt Bencke (previously head of the Marketplace), Charlie Kindel (previously head of the developer ecosystem) and Achim Berg (previously head of marketing for windows phone) have all been shown the door in recent times.
Perhaps, it’s got to do with Microsoft’s internal problems than with Nokia. But then, the Finnish giant isn’t doing any favors to its ally with aggressive statements suggesting that the Lumia 800 was “the first real Windows Phone”. Surely, the move hasn’t been well received by Microsoft’s other hardware partners (HTC and LG) who were already weak on Windows Phone support.
To make matters worse, employees from both companies are now being accused of posting anonymous comments to boost their product on a review of the new Nokia Lumia 800 phone using Microsoft’s new Windows Phone software. And then there’s the rumor mill which routinely dishes up predictions and reasoning on when and why Microsoft should buy Nokia. Perhaps, it’s just part and parcel of a high profile partnership or even a culture clash between a US company and another which takes pride in its Finnish roots, Microsoft and Nokia need to get their act together – after all, the time for Windows Phone is now (or never)!