New Nokia boss Stephen Elop signs up with Microsoft Windows for smartphones

Sometimes you just have to admit you’ve been left behind and that’s what new Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has done in announcing today a ‘global partnership’ with Microsoft to use its new Windows Phone as Nokia’s smartphone operating system.

Elop, himself a former Microsoft executive, was always expected to decide to dump Nokia’s own Symbian and newer MeeGo systems in favour of Windows although adopting Google’s all-conquering Android system would have been both safer and cheaper.

But the new Windows Phone has failed to fly in the US (although its notices have been good enough) and so Microsoft probably needs the partnership nearly as much as Nokia does.

If Elop had opted for Android Nokia would have been in danger of becoming just another Android packager like Sony Ericsson and Motorola, a big comedown for what is still the world’s market leader in mobiles (although not smartphones, alas).

For now Android and Apple’s iPhone (which it won’t share with anyone) have won the smartphone battle. But Nokia’s position in mobiles looked pretty unchallengeable before Steve Jobs decided to make a phone (and it’s worth remembering that most people in the mobile industry thought he was mad at the time).

It will be fascinating to see if Microsoft/Nokia succeed in their ambitious partnership (there’s no formal tie-up between the companies) or it’s just a case of two old lags clinging together for support.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.