2 Turkeys and the Eagle they could become

So Nokia and Microsoft have joined forces. I see this as promising, but possibly troublesome for Microsoft. Nokia is known for making cheap phones. That’s why they are so popular in other countries; the people that buy them just want a phone that makes phone calls. If Microsoft sticks to their guns and forces Nokia to stop making toys and start making smartphones, we could see some really nice products. If Nokia somehow convinces Microsoft to let them put WP7 on cheaper phones in order to appeal to Nokia’s current demographic, we could be witnessing the engine failure that sends the mobile division of Windows plummeting swiftly to the earth.

Nokia is supposedly going to “help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies”. This is where I see the disconnect in the WP7 philosophy and where it seems to be heading with the Nokia partnership. Take a look at these specs:

  • Capacitive, 4-point multi-touch screen with WVGA (800×480) resolution
  • 1 GHz ARM v7 “Cortex/Scorpion” or better processor
  • DirectX9 rendering-capable GPU
  • 256 MB of RAM with at least 8 GB of Flash memory
  • Accelerometer with compass, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and Assisted GPS
  • 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash
  • FM radio tuner
  • 6 dedicated hardware buttons – back, Start, search, camera, power/sleep and Volume Up and Down.

These are the minimum requirements for a WP7 device. Nokia’s latest big boy, the E7, doesn’t even come close to some of these (processor speed and resolution specifically). Granted, they weren’t under Microsoft’s restrictions when they made the E7, but that just indicates the type of phones they are used to making. The “larger range of price points” is the part that worries me because it makes me think that they are planning on sticking WP7, a slick and smooth OS, onto a less-than-impressive phone in order to get it into more hands. This isn’t going to help them nearly as much as it will hinder them.

Microsoft is already playing the catch up game in the mobile space. The best way for them to prove to consumers that they are taking this seriously is to continue putting out nothing but quality hardware that is worthy of praise. If they allow Nokia to dictate any of the hardware decisions, they are compromising the experience.

Now with all of that said, I seriously doubt that Microsoft will make any concessions for the sake of Nokia’s hardware. They already have HTC, Samsung, and Dell producing WP7 devices. Microsoft doesn’t need Nokia, they want Nokia. Nokia, on the other hand, desperately needs WP7. Symbian has been flailing for several years and they realize it. This is their chance to dig themselves out of the gigantic pit of what-the-fuck-were-we-thinking and get back to making popular devices.

After some more reading over the last few days there has been one big thing that stands out to me that really makes me uneasy about this whole situation.

Microsoft is giving Nokia full control over the skin of the OS. This is a bad move on their part and it will only get worse if Nokia actually takes advantage and starts fucking with it. The biggest thing that WP7 has going for it right now is the slick UI and the ease of use. Much like iOS, you can pretty much just look at it and figure out what you need to do in order to make it do what you want it to do. It’s easy to understand and it is intuitive. It’s everything that a UI should be.

Letting a hardware manufacturer dictate the UI almost never turns out well. The only Android skin that ever improved functionality was HTC’s Sense and it’s still the only one that doesn’t suck. In fact, using a phone with Sense is a pleasure. Moto Blur seems like it is just there to slow the phone down. It doesn’t really add anything to the UI beyond re-sizable widgets, but it somehow takes the great specs of my Droid X and turns it into a sluggish piece of shit. With everything that is inside my phone it should be rocking faces, but in reality it has a lot of slowdown issues way more often than it should. It isn’t constant, but it is often enough that it is really fucking annoying.

Bottom line – Let them manufacture the hardware and tell them to keep their grubby little hands off of the UI. Seriously… don’t fuck this up.

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