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Ex-Nokia employee here - I used to work directly for the CTO of Nokia. It's amazing, but unsurprising, to me the strength of Nokia's phone brand after all these years. There's a lot longer of a story to Nokia's decision not to use Android than most people realize. For example, Intel figured prominently, the Symbian vs. Maemo debate raged internally, discussions with Google were marred by massive cultural differences and arrogance on both sides. I'm surprised no one has written a book.

For what it's worth, Windows Phone was actually an amazing platform for both users and developers, and shows a fundamental rule of technology: There Is No Third Ecosystsm. The most dominant hardware maker (at the time) and software/os maker teamed up with a really great product, but couldn't break the established smartphone duopoly, even though it was only a few years old by that point. I wasn't a Microsoft fan by any stretch (the opposite actually), but even I agreed with the decision at the time, especially after using Windows Phone. First mover advantage is huge, and developers only have so much bandwidth.

Edit: Heh. Apparently someone did write a book. See comments below. Wow.




> I'm surprised no one has written a book.

They have. Help yourself:

https://medium.com/@harrikiljander/operation-elop-6f2b043f52...

https://asokan.org/operation-elop/


Wow. Thanks... That will probably help fill in a lot of missing blanks for me. (Actually, I'm not even sure I want to read it... Still a little bitter).


That was just the beginning. Once you are done go for "Smartphones and beyond - lessons from the remarkable rise and fall of Symbian". It's an 800-page tome from David Wood, who, according to the publisher, is "the only executive to remain on the Symbian leadership team throughout virtually the entirety of the company’s history".

https://smartphonesandbeyond.com/


> For what it's worth, Windows Phone was actually an amazing platform for both users and developers, and shows a fundamental rule of technology: There Is No Third Ecosystem

I don't think this is fundamental. Microsoft really dropped the ball on Windows 10 Mobile. Building a third ecosystem is very hard, and it's a long term commitment. Microsoft had made good inroads on cheap phones with reasonable performance, and they didn't follow through with that for W10M; instead they were focusing on flagship phones. Flagship phone buyers are a lot more discriminating about everything including OS polish, app marketplace, and upgrade experience (edit to add, and a browser that doesn't suck).


I owned Lumia 920 and 930. Hardware was good, I liked the OS. I eventually switched to iOS due to 3rd party app support. It was annoying when the apps you wanted to try were either not available or were lacking features.

In my view the app support killed the platform. It would have been impossible to fix. Even if Microsoft had paid for the development it would not have made sense for companies to spend time with WP versions for just a few users.


App support was problematic, in part because Microsoft kept coming up with new, incompatible ways to develop apps. Apps for WP7 could work on WP8 and W10M (except sometimes, when the app compat didn't work right on upgrade, and users had to wipe their phone and try again, and Microsoft never fixed it); but there was also a 'new way' to build apps for WP8 that was required for some features, and a new way to build 'universal' apps for W10M that didn't work on any of the other versions of Windows Phone. To say nothing of the apps for Windows Mobile 6 that were thrown away (despite WP7 still being Windows CE, but with a fancy skin).

It's one thing to build an app for a platform with not very many users; it's another to build three similar apps for three similar platforms that don't have very many users. This is something Microsoft should have done better, and falls in the camp of if you're going to be a third ecosystem, you have to be consistently good.


And that was basically what allowed iOS and Android to flourish. Microsoft already had an established platform with the PocketPC lineage (damn it, Opera Mobile originated on such devices!) and yet they dropped that like hot potato once the media started yakking about iPhones.

You would have thought that Microsoft of all companies understood the value of platforms, having maintained Win32 compatibility for a decade already at that point.

Similarly Nokia bought Trolltech for their Qt UI toolkit, because it would allow software to be developed that could be compiled for both Maemo and Symbian. But before that could be put into effect, the board panicked and brought in Elop (in large part because of American pension funds, apparently).


This is the reason progressive web apps are good investment. In future if a new mobile platform evolves, it only has to support PWAs and they will have thousands of apps.


The real crazy is that Microsoft, who you would have thought would have known better given their long Windows on desktop history, dropped all support for an established platform (PocketPC) to focus on the Phone7/8/10 stuff.

This more than anything was perhaps what allowed Apple and Google to take over, as it signaled to companies that Microsoft was not committed to support them for the long haul.

Not long after we started to see abominations like iPhones fitted with barcode scanner cases to handle warehouse inventorying!


The worst part I remember of developing for Windows Phone was that the development tools were superficially the same as for the new desktop API but not enough for any benefit. Specifically none of the UI code was portable.


Windows Phone 7 was horrible. No native apps, no background tasks, no globally accessible storage, no serious graphics API, no API for audio streaming, no API for anything! It got slightly better in WP8, but bad impression remained.


The phones worked more smoothly than any other mobile device I can recall, though. After I tried to switch away from WP7 for the first time, I had to return the Android flagship at that time (Samsung Galaxy Nexus) because it lagged so much. The lack of apps and no way to sync with Linux computers made me eventually migrate to Android, which still seems clumsy and slow even today..


Man, I miss Windows Phone all the time. If you could have run WP8 on the Lumia 800 I feel like I might still be rocking it today.

I used an HD7 for years, as well as a 925, because it always felt snappy and "brand new".

I fired up my 925 a few days ago and it still feels fresh, quick, and gorgeous.


A 100$ Windows Phone from two years ago is still smoother than a 1000$ Android bought today.


I still use a Windows Phone (and I purchased a few spares as I love it so much!)

Smooth experience, no clutter, no distraction - it just works.


Agreed. A single-core windows phone 7 was waaaay more stable than my android flagship. Superb phones and this is coming from a Linux fan boy.


i could never find a $100 windows phone to buy. I always had to get it 'free' with a 2 year service contract. The 'retail' price without a service contract was still, IIRC, in the multiple hundreds ($499? $599?). Not spending that on what would have been a secondary/dev device to play with. FWIW, I never saw too many on ebay or craigslist at the time either.


I had a Lumia 520 when I was a pizza delivery driver, and that was an excellent phone, especially for around $50!


There were tons of these for $129 in 2013 https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00LIWB34Q/ref=dp_ob_neva_mob...


wish I'd seen one of those - would have used it as a secondary device. :/ thanks.


I guess you might have had one phone OS that was trying to do too much for its hardware and another that did too little.


> The phones worked more smoothly than any other mobile device I can recall, though.

You're probably referring to the first party apps which used an entirely different UI framework which was never publicly accessible.

Meanwhile in the earliest days of Windows Phone Silverlight the default blank app in Visual Studio took more than a second to load.


My Galaxy Nexus was a nice phone IMO, considerably nicer than the LG Nexus 4 that followed it. I actually bought a Nexus 4 and then didn't use it until my GN's screen cracked.


> no background tasks, no API for audio streaming

Here’s my old WP7 project implementing both of these: https://github.com/Const-me/SkyFM

Update: the solution in that repo builds a WP7 app using WP8 SDK. Earlier versions used WP7 SDK. I had to upgrade a few things, e.g. replaced Async CTP with Microsoft.Bcl.Async but the changes were minor.


I don't remember exactly, but maybe streaming API got added with WP7.5?


Right, they have added background tasks, media streaming and many other features in WP7.5. Happened less than 1 year after the initial 7.0 version, all original phones were upgradeable to 7.5.

BTW, when original iPhone was released in 2007, it didn’t have any user-installable apps at all, only the built-in ones. The store with the apps was launched a year after the phone.


Also while there was IE11 on Windows on Windows Phone the web view was based on IE9 or IE10. So we were unable to port our app to Windows Phone. But I'm happy that Windows Phone lost the market becouse Microsoft cooperates with opressive regimes (unlike Google and Aplle) in order to be able to sell their Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office to civil servants.


Windows phone was a great platform, but the constant abandonment of hardware made many people really angry. First WP7 phones could not get WP8, then WP8 phones could not get WP10. Both times the users were promised years of upgrades and support when they bought the devices.


This is where Intel figures in. The lead time for a new phone is 18-24 months. Intel had been going around to OEMs and Microsoft promising that the Atom would catch up and surpass ARM, and started making deals. Palm also got screwed by Intel as well if I remember correctly. Nokia cancelled at least one Symbian phone and a Maemo tablet late into development because of this, and Microsoft as well lost a lot of time focusing on a chip that never came. By the time Elop wanted to launch a Windows phone, the only option was to go with a phone in the pipeline. The other option was to wait a full cycle. The phones that could run WP8 came out the next year, I'm pretty sure, and all of the original Lumia buyers (me included) were stuck.


The whole Maemo+Moblin=Meego were also a mess thanks to Intel.

Moblin, much like Maemo, started out as a modified Debian.

But right after the merger was announced, Intel released Moblin 2, that was RPM based.

End result was that Nokia was left hanging high and dry with their N900 that used DEB and also attempted to switch out GTK with Qt (Nokia bought Trolltech) because Qt could be used on both Linux and Symbian.


Established duopoly my foot.

There was already an established duopoly when iOS and Android first shipped.

But what happened was that for some reason the focus shifted from the well established European market to the backwaters American market, rolling back some 2 decades of progress in mobile tech in the process.

Nokia was demoing Symbian phones that could operate as a pocket computer (just hook up to a TV a keyboard and a mouse) while Android barely could show a video on a external screen by blanking the internal one.

Yet the established players flinched, bought into the MSM hype, and ran their ships aground, leaving themselves wide open to be overtaken by upstarts.


So why is there only two and both from the US? I am no following what you are trying to say? Also not sure where MSM plays in if this means mainstream media?


Symbian had a lot of functionality, but the quality of the experience was poor in comparison to iOS and Android. That's why it lost, not hype.


> For what it's worth, Windows Phone was actually an amazing platform for both users and developers

Inability of Nokia/Microsoft to see that it wasn't amazing at all - in my opinion is the reason they got destroyed by iOS and Android. Windows Phone 7 was far from amazing, and by the time windows phone 8 came out - everybody already realized that and were not going to purchase another phone with WP8 that will be bricked by a new update again like all the WP7 phones did.


Windows phone was the worst thing ever. You could only open 4 tabs in your browser. Give me a break. The floor of stacking everything on top of each other was a mess where once you popped off an app you couldn't go back. I used windows phone via proxy, first thing I did was to get everyone to give it up and switch to Android.


I used Windows Phone 8 for two years, initially it was a $180 Nokia 520 that was as snappy as iPhone. Every popular app worked or had a decent 3rd party replacement. I liked the consistent and simple OS, much better than Android in terms of UX design.

One day it fell down about 3 meters on a stone floor and survived almost without a scratch. Great hardware, nice software, but a poor mobile strategy by Microsoft.


This, windows phone works well as a phone, but the lack of quality apps and crappy browser that chokes/crashes on avertising make the "smart" part a complete fail.


Too bad Firefox was not available.... I was pretty happy with mine anyways...


What office you worked in? I used to meet a lot of Nokia refugees in Vancouver and Seattle. Almost all retell the same story: C-Levels spending more time flying than on the ground, complete sturpor with platform development, internal sabotage in between internal symbian teams


I was in Palo Alto. Despite the name, the CTO of Nokia at the time was basically the head of Nokia Research, which was focused on fundamental research - like nanotech and low-power comms like Wibree (which became Bluetooth LE). This is a part of the company present-day Nokia kept when they split off the phone manufacturing bit. I don't think the CTO had much to do with the Android decision really. He used an iPhone daily anyways (no joke).


I agreed with y'all as well at the time. Anytime someone hated on windows phone I would show it to them and it wasn't at all uncommon for them to go out and buy it later. The PDF viewer is the only thing I've ever had an issue with.


If "there is no third ecosystem," then who's going to lose between Azure and Google Compute?


> First mover advantage is huge

And second mover, it seems, then, but not third. Is that so?




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