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The Nokia-Microsoft partnership and carrier involvement

| June 23, 2011 | 23 Replies

If there’s one thing that Nokia has always played a big role in, it’s promoting the practice of buying unsubsidized devices and paying lower (sometimes much lower) monthly prices to your mobile carrier. In the United States (where I’m based) this practice is practically non-existent not just because it’s not a widely publicised avenue of mobile purchase and usage, but because the nigh-evil carriers here don’t offer lowered pricing plans even when you bring your own device. This practice is apparently spreading into developed and developing countries with increasing prevalence, giving carriers even more power in terms of which devices operate on their networks. This leaves newcomers at a bit of a disadvantage compared to the incumbents or more powerful competitors in the space.

We’ve all heard reports of certain Nokia devices being pulled from potential shelves at the whims of the carriers, or certain tethering applications being torn from application marketplaces, carrier representatives actively pushing customers away from devices running a specific OS, even when customers specifically ask for and justify their purchasing desires and much more. The obvious takeaway is that mobile operators no longer operate as utilities, offering the best packages, services and value for money in attempts to differentiate. No, mobile operators are the gate-keepers to the castle and us consumers are the treasure that the manufacturers wish to access. The thing is, the operators can do nothing without the manufacturers and vice versa but the operators have been taking a decidedly heavier hand to matters in recent years.

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If a device offers a feature that competes with the operators in any reasonable way, it is scrapped or hampered, if the device gives users the opportunity to remove or work around the crappy software operators try to bundle like GPS navigation etc. (I say crappy because the implementation is invariably terrible) that ability is hindered. If users wish to download applications from a source that operators don’t get a cut from, the situation becomes rather similar for consumers this is terrible, in essence there’s only one body or group that decides what you use, how you use it & when you use it rather than consumer choice. It’s madness I tell you. Nokia have had a tendency in the past to more or less flip-off the operators and giving the users the choice as to whether they used a certain feature or not. Symbian to an extent with it’s side-loading prowess and developer community and Maemo with the (encouraged!) hacking prowess of it’s fans are definitely notable examples of just such a tendency. Recent trends however have served to stymie that practice. More and more phones, especially in developed countries are beginning to be sold subsidized by operators and the operators are growing increasingly powerful in determining whether a device is successful or not.

Google and operators both in the US, Europe and  increasingly in other large smartphone markets have really bedded in with one another especially with the previously weaker OEM’s more willing to make functionality concessions at the behest of operators. The end result is a shafted Nokia with few competitive products and no OEM’s to support them. Worse still, even when they do get decent products out of the gate, who’s to say that operators will even provide their support with decent pricing, tariffs and or marketing support.

One key takeaway from the partnership with Microsoft and a point reiterated time and again by  Elop, Ballmer and a number of other members of the Windows Phone “consortium” is that they’re in very close contact with operators who are all having a big say in what flies and what doesn’t. While that may be good for Nokia’s bottom line, I hold a general mistrust and disdain for the way mobile operators handle business and I can’t imagine their interference being much good for us end users.

In any case I’ll be keeping a very close eye on the renewed relationship between Nokia and the mobile operators as Nokia transition to their new path. What do you think, does Nokia’s increasingly good relations with carriers bode well for us end-users?

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Category: Nokia

About the Author ()

So you've read something I've written. yay!! As you already know, my name is Andre and I'm currently a student based in Atlanta. Much like Jay, I pretty much blog here in my free time. Follow me on twitter @andre1989 or contact me directly at Andre(at)mynokiablog(dot)com. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.