Microsoft

Why Nokia should offer a mobile OS smorgasbord

Nokia has been a no-show in North America, specifically the U.S., but that may change if it can come up with a unique approach to the market. Here's a thought: offer more than Symbian as an operating system.

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Nokia has been a no-show in North America, specifically the U.S., but that may change if it can come up with a unique approach to the market. Here's a thought: Offer more than Symbian as an operating system.

Rumors have been circulating that Nokia is seriously pondering a move to Windows Phone 7. This rumor isn't all that surprising since new CEO Stephen Elop is a former Microsoft exec. But why stop there? Why not offer Android as an OS too?

What if you could buy a Nokia at a U.S. carrier and had a simple drop-down box for an OS. You could pick Symbian, Windows Phone 7 or Android. In many respects, it would be no different than choosing a PC with Windows 7 or Ubuntu. The OS would be an option.

Now the logistics could be a bit complicated-Nokia would have to integrate three operating systems with its hardware-but the company would have something different for the U.S. market. Let's face it: Nokia is a hardware company that dabbles in software. The U.S. for Nokia could be an emerging market and if the company wants to innovate it should go toe-to-toe with the Motorola, Research in Motion and Apple.

A few reasons why this idea could be interesting:

  • Nokia needs some hook to jump start its brand. You could do worse than being the brand that stands for choice.
  • Nokia would effectively hedge its bets across the operating systems.
  • The company wouldn't completely toss Symbian, but it also wouldn't be tethered to the success of it.

But a choice of three operating systems-it's a safe assumption that Apple won't license the iOS-would be a differentiator. Meanwhile, Nokia could do what it does best. Make hardware and scale.

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