Thursday, September 11, 2008

Microsoft as the enemy of my enemy

Briefly blogging while working to catch up on my day job.

During the 1990s, the Clinton Justice Department and the European Commission saw their #1 antitrust goal as preventing Microsoft’s rush to Total World Domination. Today, Google is tops in every regulator’s sights, but lingering suspicion of Microsoft remains (and not just among the open source crowd).

Thus I find tremendously ironic this week’s announcement that Nokia is licensing Microsoft’s ActivSync technology, to allow Nokia smartphone owners to receive push e-mail from Microsoft Exchange servers. A free download will be available for all 43 of its current Symbian/S60 phones, or an installed base of 80 million users worldwide, and future phones will have it built-in.

In embracing ActivSync, Nokia joins Apple in embracing Exchange, which is the world leader in enterprise mail servers (at 37%). For many activists — particularly US-based open source fans — Exchange is still the big evil monopolist to be fought. So Nokia — which helped create Symbian 10 years ago to keep Microsoft from dominating mobile phones — is now embracing Microsoft to help it grab business customers.

Of course, Microsoft, Nokia and Apple are allied against the other main push e-mail solution, Research in Motion. Right now RIM has more smartphone sales in North America than Nokia, Apple or Microsoft’s licensees — hence they share a common enemy in trying to slow increasing BlackBerry penetration.

The other irony is that Nokia had previously been using the BlackBerry Internet Service as its push e-mail solution. The Nokia E61 (and its ATT-lobotomized E62 variant) won widespread popularity because of Nokia phone engineering, the BlackBerry-style keyboard and the BlackBerry Connect service (also available for 10 other E-series and 9000-series phones). When the Nokia E71 was introduced without BlackBerry Connect, Nokia E61 owners refused to upgrade and lose their e-mail solution. Now the other shoe has dropped, and Nokia’s shift in strategic alliances is clear.

Update 10pm: As someone pointed out to me today, RIM is also the only push solution with a Lotus Notes gateway. So that's another set of customers that Nokia loses by switching to Exchange.

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