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In An Alternate World, Phones Don’t Suck

September 30, 2013

Over at The Register, Aaron Milne asks a pretty decent question.  But to get there, he starts off with a general comment that I’ve heard from many an IT professional, at least when it comes to a single, portable device that is useful for business:

What I’ve found is nothing. Not a single phone out there meets the requirements that I, as a mobile business user, need to get through my day. Looking for a high-end consumer smart phone? Sorted. Looking for an entry-level consumer phone? Sorted.

Most of my list of requirements were reasonably simple and easily fulfilled. It had to have decent specs and build quality; a reliable, updatable OS; decent productivity software; and a decent browser. It wasn’t until I sat down and really thought things through though that I realised [sic, he’s a Brit] I wanted something that could be considered unusual, something that it turns out is apparently impossible to have given the single device = single user nature of our current software.

I was having this conversation with one of the leads in my own, large IT organization at a recent conference.  As far as phones, tablets, or even laptops go, there’s really not a single device that works for the broad base.  Sure, you can get close, or you can support two devices and almost get there, but then the cost to IT goes up significantly.  So what was the real conclusion?

Microsoft should have bought BlackBerry, the phone maker formerly known as RIM. Forget Nokia. In fact, screw Nokia to the seven hells of Cthulhu and back. Nokia haven’t made a decent smartphone ever. Nokia make really really great feature phones and crappy smartphones that they market as high-end.

You might have guessed that I’m not a fan of Nokia and you’d be right. Microsoft buying Nokia doesn’t make any sense. It’s like me trying to get into the LCD panel business by buying a CRT manufacturer that’s going out of business.

Again, if you make a Cthulhu or pony reference, especially as relates to technology, you get a plus in my blog…

Microsoft bought Nokia, if you ask me, because Nokia did what Microsoft needed from a strategy perspective to gain a toehold in the industry.  Nokia provided a platform that Microsoft could use to be a serious third option.  Maybe not a viable third option, as Mr. Milne notes, but a serious player.  But I agree that, if Microsoft wanted to own the business phone market, they should have gone after RIM a year or so back.

I’ve been a fan of RIM from its early devices, and they had two things that differentiated them in a business environment.  First, the keyboard… I was pretty vocal to people that RIM going to a soft keyboard was a killer for their market, because so much of their market kept them for the easy interface.  The other thing they had was a very reliable messaging service that worked when coverage was not so good.  Business demanded that capability, and no other provider has figured out how to successfully do it.

Now, if you ask me, Microsoft didn’t buy Nokia because they wanted to own business.  They figure they can get there on their own.  I’m not sure they can, but what the heck, it’s their strategic decision, and they can live with it.  But the lost opportunity of getting a player who really understood how to win the hearts of information technology professionals is one that has to sting… especially when it looks like Blackberry for the most part is just going to spiral into oblivion at this point.

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