Changing places: Microsoft trades HP for Nokia

The juxtaposition of HP’s strategy of increased independence and Nokia’s new strategy of increased dependence can’t be more striking.

HP is probably Microsoft’s biggest customer. As the largest licensee of Windows it probably generated more revenue for Microsoft than any other company. The fact that HP invested in a new operating system for its mobile efforts shows a level of discomfort with the lack of strategic leverage.

Nokia, on the other hand, has been resolutely independent in its software strategy. For over a decade it held out against licensing any OS, especially one from Microsoft. The pantomime theatrics that took place over that decade will make a great case study some day.

But now we have a complete reversal of roles: The abandonment of platform independence by a mobile giant at precisely the same time as the acquisition of platform resolve by an IT giant.

It seems almost poetic. And that should be a clue. Whenever you see poetry, you need not look far for some truth.

These chess moves are taking place in the context of a greater game: the collision and disruption of IT and Telecom. It’s not surprising that massive market forces are causing incumbents to react. HP, Microsoft and Nokia are in the throes of fundamental disruption. Even if these moves may not be all in the same direction, they each react in ways that make sense to them.

It’s also very likely that all the moves are for naught. Incumbents rarely win with reactions. Let’s not forget that the entrants came with different business models. Apple and Google are not making money in the ways of Nokia and HP (who are channel dependent) or Microsoft (who is license dependent). The reaction must itself be asymmetric. So far it’s not clear where the asymmetry lies.

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