Only a short while ago Nokia ruled supreme in the mobile phone world. Symbian, based upon the software used in the Psion handheld computers, was the operating system for a decade of phones which steadily gained sophistication. However, apart from Calls, Texts and Games, Email on your phone was considered a luxury and only in 2005/6 did it becoming commonplace to browse the web on your phone.
Windows had attempted to break into this market with a succession of systems:- Windows CE, itself a clunky version of their desktop system Windows 95, Pocket PC2000/2 and Windows Mobile. Personally, it always seemed to me that Microsoft was trying to make a desktop operating system work on a mobile device, rather than designing a system purely for the mobile phone market.
It took Apple to make the paradigm shift – to produce a phone which treated internet connectivity as standard, which offered the user a choice of the things they could do on their phone via Apps, and which had access to music, videos and movies. Apple quickly sealed the market with iTunes, and the App store, and suddenly it was the only phone in town. It’s operating system, IOS, was based upon Mac OSX, itself a version of Unix – so it was fast and light.
The Blackberry emerged and corned the corporate market for a while, but was poorly equipped in comparison to the iPhone. Only the emergence of the Android operating system from Google threatened the dominance of IOS. However, the open-market provided for Android Apps is proving to be its Achilles heel. By not having the vetting process that all iPhone Apps require, poor or dangerous apps could be released and downloaded by unsuspecting users. Still, it was taken up by a number of phone makers – notably HTC and Samsung – and the number of users soon passed that of the iPhone.
In the meantime, however, Microsoft had withdrawn into the research lab. Windows Mobile was quietly withdrawn and all was quiet.
Nokia was also on the slide. Symbian Anna was introduced and for a while had some real energy. The new range of Nokia phones had good interactivity, superb camera, great display and wonderful design, but the operating system was still clunky and the apps lacked the sophistication of those on the iPhone or Android phones.
So the announcement in 2011 that Nokia was moving its operating system from Symbian to Windows 7 caused only a gentle ripple in the market.
In order to dent the IOS and Android market, Nokia/Windows needed to produce something special.
And they did….