It could be a golden opportunity, or it could be a total nightmare.
I was looking at this review of the Nokia Lumia 900, and I was salivating a bit. It runs on the Windows Phone Mango operating system, which is apparently pretty damn good - though not many people use it - and which is about to be upgraded to a level which will be pretty impressive. Plus, it's pretty and it's different and it's not trying to be an iPhone, which is good. Don't get me wrong, I love the iPhone. I just like the world more when it is full of different things.
So combine that phone with Microsoft's interest in Nook, and what have you got? Interestingness, I thought. A possible parallel ecosystem where some new ebook thinking might go on. Yes? I mean, here's Microsoft making a bid to enter the bookselling world, connecting with B&N and their bricks and mortar stores. The question over the weekend was whether Microsoft's 'big announcement' yesterday would be a Windows Nook.
Nope. They went with an iPad killer. And I do mean killer. The Surface tablet gets intro music like Darth Vader and styling like the bad guy's car from Knight Rider. If they were trying to send a message that the Evil Empire is not dead, there's really not much that they could have done to improve on this video except maybe have Vladimir Putin shoot a puppy from horseback. Naked.
If this was a gaming tablet, that might make sense - macho + explosions + crumpet = sales? But it's supposedly focused on productivity. It has that neat little keyboard thing which may or may not be like typing on dried fruit. They're making this thing out to be a terminator, when they should be saying it's R2D2. Why does the Android operating system have a little happy robot face? Because these are life devices. You live with them. They have to be nice.
Presumably - because it would seem insane that it should not be so - the Surface will dovetail well with B&N, and there may yet be some clever new iteration of the Nook. Well, okay, I thought, fine. New ecosystem all the same, but Apple-style rather than Kindle. Okay. I envisaged Nokia in the loop too, enthusiastically creating a sub-tablet or a maxiphone which would be pocket-sized, reading friendly, Nook-able, Windows Phone 8... and so on.
Well, um. It seems that Nokia might be running out of cash.
And all of a sudden, you look at the line-up and you see a team of companies which are struggling to hold onto a dominance they had and a style of doing business which went with it. I want to see them as plucky underdogs, I really do. (Yes, I know. Microsoft, Nokia, and B&N as underdogs. Ain't the 21st Century weird?) But I'm not sure I can. I worry that they may just be the also-rans.
So if Nokia does fold - I have no idea if that's really happening - will Microsoft pick it up? Will they acquire all that mobile expertise and design ability and launch themselves into the Apple/Kindle space - will they follow Google/Motorola? And if they do, do they have the culture to sustain it or are they addicted to a self-perception which is toxically business/serious/terminatory? And if they do, are they just drinking from the poisoned chalice or the cup of life? And there's no question that they'd be able to do amazing things with Nook - but will they?
Here's the kicker: a quote which should scare anyone in our industry absolutely frozen - Stephen Elop of Nokia - formerly of Microsoft - talking about what's gone wrong:
"We poured gasoline on our own burning platform ... We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough."
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