Microsoft’s new “strategic partnership” with Nokia is not its first. For a decade the software company has courted and consummated relationships with a variety of companies in mobile and telecom. Here are the ones I can remember:
- LG. In February 2009 Microsoft Corp. signed a multiyear agreement for Windows Mobile to be included on devices from LG Electronics Inc. LG would use Windows Mobile as its “primary platform” for smartphones and produce about 50 models running the software.
What happened? LG made a few Windows Mobile devices but with WinMo uncompetitive, they abandoned the platform and moved to Android losing years of market presence and all their profits.
- Motorola. In September 2003, Motorola and Microsoft announced an alliance. “Starting with the introduction of the new Motorola MPx200 mobile phone with Microsoft Windows Mobile software, the companies will collaborate on a series of Smartphone and Pocket PC wireless devices designed to create a virtual “remote control” for the Web-centric, work-centric, always-on-the-go mobile professional.” In addition, the alliance includes cooperation on joint marketing and wireless developer programs.
What happened? Motorola launched a series of Windows Mobile phones culminating in the Motorola Q “Blackberry killer”. As Motorola hit the rocks in profitability new management reached for the Android liferaft. The company now relies exclusively on the Droid franchise.
- Palm. In September 2005 Palm and Microsoft announced a strategic alliance to “accelerate the Smartphone market segment with a new device for mobile professionals and businesses. Palm has licensed the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system for an expanded line of Treo Smartphones, the first of which will be available on Verizon Wireless’ national wireless broadband network.”
What happened? Palm shipped a few Windows Mobile, famously dismissing Apple’s potential entry as something “PC guys” could never achieve. A new CEO, a private placement and an acquisition later the company is a division of HP making its own operating system.
- Nortel. When Steve Ballmer was famously laughing at the iPhone and saying that he likes the Windows Mobile strategy “a lot” he was sitting next to the then-CEO of Nortel (Mike Zafirovski formerly of Motorola) with whom the company had just closed a strategic deal. “an alliance between Microsoft and Nortel announced in July 2006 … includes three new joint solutions to dramatically improve business communications by breaking down the barriers between voice, e-mail, instant messaging, multimedia conferencing and other forms of communication”.
What happened? Nortel declared bankruptcy two years later.
- Verizon. In January 2009 “Verizon Wireless has selected Microsoft Corp. to provide portal, local and Internet search as well as mobile advertising services to customers on its devices. The five-year agreement will go into effect in the first half of 2009 when Microsoft Live Search is targeted to be available on new Verizon Wireless feature phones and smartphones.” The deal would ensure Bing distribution to all of Verizon’s smartphone customers.
What happened? Bing did ship on some devices but in October 2009 Droid came to Verizon.
- Ericsson. In September 2000, “Ericsson and Microsoft Corp. today launched Ericsson Microsoft Mobile Venture AB. This previously announced joint company will drive the mobile Internet by developing and marketing mobile e-mail solutions for operators. The first solutions are expected to be on the market by the end of the year. The company is part of a broader strategic alliance between Ericsson and Microsoft”
What happened? Ericsson divested itself of the mobile division forming a joint venture which would go on and make more strategic alliances with Microsoft over Windows Mobile culminating in a loss of profits and eventual flight to Android.
- Sendo. In February 2001, Microsoft announced a partnership, in which Microsoft bought $12m of Sendo shares and a seat on the board. Sendo was to be Microsoft’s “go to market partner” for the Stinger smartphone platform that would become Smartphone 2002.
What happened? Sendo after litigating IP issues with Microsoft went bankrupt in 2005.
- Nokia. No, not this OS deal, but in August 2009 “The worldwide leader in software and the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer have entered into an alliance that is set to deliver a groundbreaking, enterprise-grade solution for mobile productivity. Today, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop and Nokia’s Executive Vice President for Devices Kai Öistämö announced the agreement, outlining a shared vision for the future of mobile productivity. This is the first time that either company has embarked on an alliance of this scope and nature.”
The plan was to bring “Microsoft Office Mobile and Microsoft business communications, collaboration and device management software to Nokia’s Symbian devices.”
What happened? One and a half years later the same Stephen Elop announced that Symbian will be deprecated.