So Microsoft and Nokia have announced a new joint venture to shake-up the smart phone market. These two firms were once undisputed leaders in their domains – but now both are paying the price for missing out on key changes in how we want to access and interact with information.
Should Apple and Google be worried? Do we really believe that this venture will change two companies out of sync with the times so that they can compete with the two of the fastest growing and most culturally aware businesses we have ever seen? If they are to succeed then there are certain key factors that will have to go their way:
1. Stop shoe-horning old ways of doing things into the interface. Apple has moved the interface between man and machine into a new stratosphere. They have set the standard and that standard is now culturally imbedded. I recently witnessed a toddler seem confused when the ‘Apple Pinch’ did not work on a TV screen!! So Microsoft has got to redesign windows from the bottom-up. It was not made to be a touch screen interface and boy does it show. Yes it has improved its interface capacity but it still looks clunky. Try using a top-spec new generation laptop that runs Windows and then compare the experience with your Ipad or Iphone. Likewise with Nokia, they missed the first wave of touch screen, betting on clams and slide phones, so what next ? How are they going to catch-up and move not just the interface but the whole experience on?
2. Look at the Google and Apple model and see where the holes are appearing. I-tunes seemed to be leading edge when it was introduced but try using the interface through a computer these days and it seems positively old fashioned compared to the app stores. So rather than just ‘me too’ how you serve up content Noksoft is going to have to think about where this needs to go in the future. One such area might be to start influencing the zeitgeist, now that Twitter is mainstream and starting to experience a big backlash from the Mavens, can they learn from the new destinations – the Quoras of the world – what is different about the experience on here? How is that affecting the expectations of how we will access information and content in the future?
3. Relish not being the focal point of the market and go under the wire. The market is looking to Apple and Google for its lead and has low expectations of Noksoft. Meanwhile Apple and Google after years of mutual board members and non-aggression are at war and fully focussed on each other. For once there is the chance to do something unexpected and take some risks, to go back to the kind of thinking and entrepreneurial spirit that got these firms to the top of their respective worlds. The current web-neutrality debates and prospective legislation in the US could really shake the market up and give Noksoft the chance to be on the right side of the argument for once, railing against the established order and stealing a march on what content is served and via which networks.
So the next few months will be very interesting, was the venture a shrewd visionary move or a desperate attempt by an ex-Microsoft employee to get back into the fold?