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Friday, February 11, 2011

Nokia + Microsoft: is there an effective third silent partner, Qualcomm?

I'm at the Nokia strategy event in London today, listening to Stephen Elop discussing the Microsoft deal & wider issues around the company's strategy for smartphones, mobile phones and "future disruptions".

There's a ton of angles on this, which I've been dropping comments about on Twitter, and which are well covered elsewhere.

But I'm wondering if there's another angle here in the discussion of "the Windows Phone ecosystem". All of the first batch of WP7 devices have been based on Qualcomm hardware and specifically the Snapdragon processor.

Nokia had a long-running legal spat over patents with Qualcomm, which was resolved in mid-2008. Added towards the traditional antipathy of the GSM community towards CDMA, this meant that Nokia firstly never developed Symbian devices for the broader US market, and also missed Qualcomm's increasing competitiveness in creating 3G basebands and application processors. A year ago at MWC, Nokia announced the first Snapdragon-powered phone would ship by end-2010. It didn't happen. The N8 uses a Texas Instruments apps processor, and the rumoured N9 hasn't appeared.

It's also not clear what's happening now to Nokia's deal with Broadcom for 3G chipset supply - or what happens with its future LTE devices.

I suspect that Qualcomm may - explicitly or implicitly - turn out to be a big winner with today's announcement. It certainly seems likely that for Nokia to get its first WP7 phones to market ASAP ("focus on speed"), it will go down the proven route to get devices out as fast as possible.

The interesting thing here is that the big Q could therefore end up as a pivotal player in Apple, Android and WP7/Nokia ecosystems - although in the iPhone it's on the baseband side than the apps processor.

The big questionmark is around the future role of Intel in mobile. It is clearly now being left out in the cold (again), as Meego is effectively being mothballed, at least from Nokia's point of view. It will be interesting to see its next move - partnership with Samsung on Bada, or RIM on QNX, perhaps? An acquisition of a company like MediaTek? Or a wholehearted move to support WP7 and Android however possible?


Gabriel Brown said...

Broadly agree. It was notable that Qualcomm was very cool on Meego at their innovation day late last year. Said they hadn't seen a proper UX and couldn't really take it seriously until they saw something that works. Guess they saw this coming.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought but would'nt ST Ericsson be a closer and more likely partner than Qualcomm? As far as I know, STE and Nokia are already in it together on smaller projects.