What CIOs really want from smartphones? Something that makes a decent call

CIO Jury: Can the Nokia-Microsoft deal break the dominance of Apple, Google and BlackBerry?

The Nokia-Microsoft deal could give the two companies a fighting chance in the ultra-competitive smartphone market, but only if it delivers products that can woo consumers as well as businesses, including smartphones that can actually make a decent phone call.

That's the view of silicon.com's CIO Jury panel of IT chiefs - which was split down the middle when asked: "Will the combination of Nokia and Microsoft be attractive for businesses looking to buy smartphones?"

Earlier this month, Microsoft and Nokia unveiled their partnership, which they hope will help them provide a credible smartphone alternative to Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system.

Under the terms of the deal, Windows Phone 7 will become Nokia's principal operating system, and Nokia will help Microsoft develop it and ensure a broad range of phones using it are available globally. But can Nokia and Microsoft really make an impact on a market already dominated by Apple, Google and RIM's BlackBerry?

Spencer Steel, IT manager at Informatiq Consulting, said the biggest criticism of smartphones is that "everything is smart except for the phone". He said there is "a body of people out there who miss their Nokias and Ericssons because they were very good telephones - it has been mentioned elsewhere that many business executives would like to see the return of the Nokia 6310.

"This is, after all, where the genre originated. If Nokia and Microsoft together can leverage both their strengths, they could again have a killer product."

Nokia 6310, Nokia-Microsoft smartphone

So what do CIOs want from the Nokia-Microsoft deal? "Many executives would like to see the return of the Nokia 6310"
Photo: Nokia

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Sodexo Northern Europe CIO, said if the duo came up with good products, they stood a chance: "If there is some significant functionality advantage and at least cost equality. It's never too late to catch up or even overtake - but not with a 'me too' product."

And Neil Jones, head of IS at Newport City Homes, said: "Any competition in the market has to be attractive in terms of pricing and the pace of future innovation."

Meanwhile, Dave Thomson, IT and communications manager at Rice & Dore Associates, said: "I would welcome a smartphone that offers the opportunity to provide my user base with a consistent look and feel and, to a certain degree functionality, between their desktop and mobile computing experience."

David Pirie, BCA group IT director, warned: "Previous Microsoft mobile devices haven't caught the imagination like other products such as BlackBerrys and iPhones. Microsoft can often be late to the party but does come up with products that take market share."

But, he added: "Given the often fickle nature of acquiring such kit, if this partnership can deliver innovation, there's every chance."

Not all IT chiefs were convinced. Stephen Potter, CIO at World-Check, said with the increasing consumerisation of IT, whether consumers like the new devices that come out of the alliance will dictate how businesses respond: "The choice of smartphones for business use is increasingly in the hands of the individual user, rather than...

By Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was th...