Nokia & Microsoft – And what it means for QT and MeeGo.

This post has been filed under politics for a reason; because it is widely believed that there can only be three mainstream smartphone ecosystems, in addition to niche platforms such as RIM, and with Android and Apple IOS occupying two of those positions the race to be the third depends massively on the perception of momentum. Consumers and developers will follow the perceived trend, and so creating a vision for where your platform will go is as much an art of political manoeuvre as it is a science of engineering prowess.

Nokia want to be (a part of) that third platform and they didn’t have confidence that MeeGo could take them there.

So that is the politics;  Nokia needed to do something, as losing ten-percent market share in just a year is pretty horrific!

But even if adopting Win7 mobile for smartphones was a ‘necessary’ choice for Nokia, what does it mean for open platforms like Meego whose competitive advantage is enhanced by its cross-platform development environment?

On the surface it looks pretty bad:

1. MeeGo is no longer a smartphone platform, it has now become a smartphone ‘project’ which will limit itself a single 2011 release before morphing into R&D for future concepts. What this means is that stage 5 of 5 will probably not attract much commercial developer interest, nor see investment in services expected of a tier one device.

2. QT will not be offered as a development platform for Nokia Win7 phones, that will be in the hands of Microsoft, effectively killing Nokia’s ambition to see QT as the premier mobile development platform. What this means is that as far as Nokia is concerned QT has very little utility as a strategic asset and so investment will plummet.

3. Microsoft Marketplace will replace Ovi-Store as the store for applications on Nokia Win7 devices, and this is unlikely to be made available to MeeGo devices. This may not matter quite as much as it initially appears however as an entirely separate app-store ecosystem has grown up around Nokia/MeeGo in the form of Project Bretzn.

This is in no way a desirable outcome as far as this blog is concerned, for there is no dream of a mainstream open platform any longer, but perhaps it will survive as a niche platform?

Nokia currently spends nearly three times as much on R&D as its peers:

So when we see that investment by Nokia will decline by a third, and investment in MeeGo will be squeezed to less than half of what it was, perhaps we need a little perspective:

We can see that MeeGo alone will probably see an annual investment of circa $200 million. If we likewise contrast that to the circa $800 million to be invested in “Windows Phone” then we can guess that “MeeGo” phones will attract as much as one fifth of the investment that Nokia will put into “Mobile Phones – Platforms” as well as “Services” which amounts to circa $350 million per year. That said, $350 million would be the upper ceiling given that MeeGo is now a ‘project’ rather than a platform, so lets halve that figure and call it $175 million a year in platforms and services.

So, in a like-for-like comparison with competitors, a total investment of around $400 million dollars a year doesn’t appear too desperate, provided one understands that it is being kept as a niche platform and not promoted as a mainstream competitor to Android and Apples IOS.

It should also be noted that Nokia show Win7 as replacing the Symbian platform which occupies the mid-to-high end of the companies offering, a total that represents less than 60% of Nokia’s projected future sales.

So there is plenty of room for cheap smartphones for the developing world as well as niche smartphones for the developed world.

As for QT, this blog is willing to follow the advice of KDE project lead Aaron Siego:

Open governance around Qt is moving forward briskly and from what I gather there are some interesting and useful announcements to come. R&D investment continues. However, we (KDE) won’t know the full shape of how this will impact our landscape in the mid- and long-terms until we speak more with people at Nokia as well as within the Qt team itself. That’s going to take weeks, not hours or days. Pretty much anything said before then is going to be premature and stand an awfully high chance of being wrong. Qt is a big ecosystem with many players right now, and as with any big company making a big announcement sorting out the practical implications is not something done in an hour or a day.

So in what manner will MeeGo survive as a niche platform? Well, as an open ‘platform’ of course (even if Nokia are unwilling to term it as such right now), just as RIM makes its money as business platform, and webOS will survive as a vertically integrated HP platform. Likewise will QT survive as a useful (if not strategic) part of Nokia’s future as it will remain the key enabler for development on its niche open platform.

Events have not turned out as this blogger would choose, and one is far from convinced that Win7 represents a sensible move for Nokia’s long-term future, but regardless, all is not lost on the open-platform front.

Update – 22.02.11

Nokia leaks info on the upcoming Nokia n950 MeeGo smartphone:

No images of the device were shown, and Green did not go into detail describing the design or functionality of the device. “There’s a lot of work that’s gone into the technology,” he suggested, “there’s a lot of really interesting user interface and platform design work, some very elegant hardware.”

15 responses to “Nokia & Microsoft – And what it means for QT and MeeGo.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Nokia & Microsoft – And what it means for QT and MeeGo. « Jedibeeftrix's Blog -- Topsy.com

    • granted, but nokia had so many walled gardens that it apparently wasn’t getting very good value from its investment, contrast the performance of apple with nokia despite spending one quarter as much.

      • Well, Paul Ottelini told me on Wednesday that Intel’s definitely keeping and developing Qt (even though Intel people say it “cutie” rather than “cute”). Although I’m not so sure about this evaluation device I got given…

    • i guess there conclusion was that a company that was bleeding market share hand over fist could not afford to be spending three times as much as their competitors developing a product that couldn’t compete with android and IOS…..

      a similar parallel could be drawn with the British state! ;)

  2. Jedi: Both. Qt is a critical dependency for MeeGo, you can’t AFAIK build MeeGo without it. Ottelini quite clearly stated that Intel would support Qt development if Nokia stopped paying the core devs (the ex-Trolltech group).

    It’s not really the device (an ExoPC Slate)) that I’ve been given to evaluate, rather the software. MeeGo is currently production at version 1.1 for the Netbook and Smartphone flavours (some Fujitsu and Lenovo netbooks are shipping) but the tablet flavour is pre-alpha and that’s the one I’ve got:-)

    • excellent news on Intel’s commitment, though i’d rather hope that if Nokia lost interest they’d just sell Trolltech to intel, rather than letting it wither on the vine whilst Intel is left to pick up ex-Trolls in the hope of making up the deficit.

      interesting to hear about device/UI testing, i understand the soon to release 1.2 version of MeeGo is the one that will provide a final smartphone interface……?

      thank you

  3. With 150million symbian devices more to be launched by Nokia, I am pretty sure that Qt’s future is not dark and we should stick to developing for it as well as start taking WP7 seriously and think of developing for it too……
    Well the future is unseen but if we wish, it’s not going to be dark with WP7 in hand….. :)

    Nokia is very much aware of the fact that Qt has a huge impact on developers and is one of its best move till now, then what make u all think that Nokia is going to throw that away and not support it in future.
    What Nokia did can prove to be a huge success in long run not only for Nokia but also to developers because now developers have an added choice of creating apps using WP7 and selling it worldwide.

  4. Meego is dead.
    Niche means just that,…
    It has no hope of ending up anywhere unless Intel decided to do something with it.
    Internal projects are a dime a dozen so shuttering down and putting the in-house project label is just life support.
    If you have no clear path anymore but to sit pretty in some lab somewhere, it is unofficially dead but officially useless..

    As for Seigo, cmon… what do you expect him to do but read a chapter from the company press release?
    He works for them, do you really expect him to come out against his bosses? Im not sure many companies appreciate their workers second guessing these decisions so unless he plans to quit his job now that he just move to Zurich, I dont expect him to say anything other than ‘its too early, we have to wait…. Qt is not dead’.
    Im not saying its a bad idea to give this time but Seigo has already done other interviews where he is just repeating the company line.
    There is ZERO chance that he will say anything negative no matter how he feels personally about this. Its HIS employers.
    As nice as he is, if you know that he wont give you a truthful answer, its kind of useless to use him to gauge anythgin about this situation.

    This merger was a death blow to Meego and has pushed back Qt from a possible leader of mobile development platforms to just another face in the crowd. Its not a death blow but it guarantees that Qt will never achieve the greatness we alll thought it could.

    its not dead, just neutered.

  5. Pingback: News - Nokia might shun Microsoft for tablet OS - HEXUS.community discussion forums

  6. Pingback: RIM CEO Thorsten Heins: 'we have a clear shot at being number three' - Page 2 - BlackBerry Forums at CrackBerry.com

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