Microsoft and Nokia Surprise Google at Mobile World Congress

By Rob Enderle February 26, 2014

Barcelona, Spain is where the biggest news is happing this week, at an event called Mobile World Congress.  This is where everyone that is anyone in mobile, with the exception of Apple who still feels they are above it all, showcases their latest products and strategies.  

A few months back, Nokia was acquired by Microsoft and while the deal isn’t completed yet, it appears both companies wanted to surprise Google with their latest efforts.   While surprises can be fun, I doubt Google is very amused.   Let me explain.

Nokia Forks Android

After Amazon took Android, loaded it on their Kindle line giving Google a big raspberry for their contribution, Google has been making changes to their license to prevent any more Android forks.   A fork is when you take a product in a new direction, while leaving the old direction in place.   And Amazon basically, and legally, stole Android.    So, Google started putting in place forced bundles to Google services which developers creating apps are then required to use.   Navigation, Google Play and Google Music all became core critical components of newer apps that needed access to your location, a payment tool, or content.  Currently around 25 percent of Google’s apps require one or more of these services - which means it is far more difficult to create your own version of Android than it was before and likely with a couple years that 25 percent will jump to over half, as Google brings on board more services and forces them into the solution as part of the deal. 

Well, Nokia apparently said 75 percent of the apps are good enough and, by the way, we have our own or have access to Microsoft alternatives to all of those services.  It does require some new pointers in the apps that used Google’s services but this generally amounts to a couple lines of code.   So with their new low cost line of smartphones priced well below Android alternatives, they have once again forked Android to Google’s surprise.   I imagine Google will move to make this even tougher to do in the future.   The new OS was placed on low cost phones targeting emerging markets and should undercut Android licensed products - which I’m sure will really torque off Google as the gift that just keeps giving.   

Microsoft Goes Phone Crazy

On top of Nokia’s move, Microsoft has apparently been running around like crazy getting design win after design win.   From what I understand of the back-story, the cell phone manufacturers they signed up, including Lenovo who recently bought Google’s own phone company Motorola, came over because they were upset with Google’s unresponsiveness to their concerns.   What is particularly ironic is a decade ago many of these same companies were upset with Microsoft for the same reason but Google apparently schooled them in how bad a relationship can really be and these guys are coming back. 

Reminds me of an old friend of mine who left his marriage only to find his new interest was bonkers crazy and so badly wanted a do over. Apparently a lot of vendors are feeling much the same way and are hooking up with Microsoft again with their phone efforts.   In turn, Microsoft is listening and promising to make updates and modifications to their Windows Mobile platform as needed to address business users and other vendor concerns. 

Even Blackberry got in on this and has promised to support Windows Phones and the new Nokia Android fork with their messaging platform (BBM) shortly, kind of making the event a pile on Google party.  

Wrapping Up:

I remain fascinated that Google seems to want to repeat every mistake Microsoft made in the last 20 years - but over a much shorter time frame.  They’ve ticked off governments needlessly, angered OEMs, haven’t taken security seriously, and their impressive rise is being followed by what looks like the beginnings of a pull back.   Granted, unlike Microsoft their ad monopoly is still pretty much untouched, but they seem to be doing everything they can to break the rest. In any case Nokia, Microsoft and even Blackberry stepped in to surprise the firm at Mobile World Congress.   Somehow, I doubt Google enjoyed the surprise this year but I’ll bet Apple did.   

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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