Why Nokia now needs to embrace Android

Sony Ericsson's gone over to Google. Should Nokia follow suit?

Nokia's open source adventure has come to a grinding halt as Sony Ericsson drops the Symbian platform in favour of Android.

Given the choice between Symbian and Android, Symbian Foundation members such as Sony Ericsson and Samsung are going for Android.

Maybe Nokia needs to do the same.

There's an irony here: Sony Ericsson's departure won't significantly damage Symbian, but that's because Sony Ericsson doesn't sell very many smartphones.

Now that SE's out of the picture, that leaves Nokia as Symbian's only real cheerleader. If you look at the Symbian Foundation's member directory, you'll see that it's more of a "who's that?" than a who's who.

Symbian isn't dead - Android, Windows Phone and other OSes simply won't run on the more modest handsets Nokia churns out by the million, developers have built loads of apps for the platform and Nokia itself is committed to Symbian unless it decides it likes Meego more - but it's gone a funny grey colour.

Struggling Symbian

Wherever you look, the market share stats tell the same story: in smartphones, Symbian is struggling.

That's partly because of compromised handsets - over at All About Symbian, Steve Litchfield wrote a devastating critique of the very best Symbian handsets that made terrifying reading for any Nokia fan or investor - and partly because Symbian's UI, like many open source projects, is a bit clunky.

More than anything, though, the problem is that Nokia doesn't seem to understand what business it's currently in. Smartphones are all about software, but Nokia is still very much a hardware company.

Emails sent to John Gruber by Nokia insiders paint a depressing picture. "Hardware rules", one correspondent writes. Software is given to the hardware guys, who "do things like reduce the available memory for the software to 25% the specified allocation and then [blame] software when things failed in the field."

That wouldn't be such an issue if specs were all that mattered, but in smartphones the reverse is true. In hardware terms the iPhone was and is rubbish compared to its much better specced - and priced - rivals, but superb software saw it fly off Apple's shelves.

Windows Mobile 6.1 didn't fall out of favour because the handsets weren't good enough, but because the software wasn't. And people aren't excited about Windows Phone because the handsets promised hitherto unimaginable kinds of hardware heaven.

We know that Nokia can make awesome hardware, but can it make awesome software too? If the answer isn't yes - and I suspect it isn't - then perhaps it's time to give Google or Microsoft a call.


Liked this? Then check out Symbian asks: 'Why does Google need Android?'

Sign up for TechRadar's free Weird Week in Tech newsletter
Get the oddest tech stories of the week, plus the most popular news and reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register

Follow TechRadar on Twitter * Find us on Facebook

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.