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MWC 2011: Nokia Guns for Android

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2011 -- On Sunday, the eve of the Mobile World Congress, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) CEO Stephen Elop took the stage at a press event here in Barcelona to explain his decision to adopt Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Phone 7 as Nokia's future smartphone platform. (See RIP Symbian & MeeGo: Nokia Ties Future to WP7.)

His company's biggest motivation for aligning with Microsoft is to fight back against Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android.

"Our number-one priority is to compete with Android," he said, explaining that the industry had shifted from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems. "The battle is against Android," as well as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), he said.

He explained that Nokia faced a choice of three different paths for its smartphone platform strategy: internally develop MeeGo and Symbian to develop a third ecosystem; pursue and place a significant bet on Android; or partner with Microsoft.

Why not Android?
Elop said that if Nokia chose to embrace Android, the industry would have ended up with a duopoly of smartphone ecosystems -- namely, Apple and Google. "To Google, that has value," said Elop. "That would have tilted the value of the mobile ecosystem in that direction."

But by aligning with the Windows Phone platform, Elop said that pushes Microsoft's system into a "very different direction."

"Now, Windows Phone is a challenger," he said.

Elop also noted that mobile operators have so far reacted positively to the alliance. He said that one operator told him, "For many years we've been trying to get that third ecosystem going; now we have it -- thank you."

Sunday night's event was a press conference with no news or new device announcements. Rather, Elop took the opportunity to clarify, explain and justify his motivation for creating a partnership with Microsoft, which Nokia announced on Friday along with a major restructuring and executive leadership changes. (See Nokia Unveils Major Revamp, Biggest Losers in NokiSoft: Developers and Nokia to Cut Jobs, Stay in Finland.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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