From tangle to tango

EVEN with cupids actively in business for the Valentine’s season, it was a huge step for Nokia to decide to hold hands with Microsoft. Though it looks apt on hindsight that the world’s leading handset maker from Finland should choose the largest software maker to tango, the tie-up announced at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes had major potential odds stacked against it.

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Published: Sat 19 Feb 2005, 10:09 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:43 PM

Not the least was the long history of their transatlantic rivalry. With Microsoft into handset making, Nokia had its vested interests in leaving Bill Gates out in the cold as long as possible. For the same reason, one would have expected him to be least interested to flirt with a potential threat to his fledgling business. It was only in December that Nokia quit the Computer and Communications Industry Association in a huff to protest against the trade body’s overtures to the US behemoth.

There must surely have been strong business compulsions for the two to knock open this ‘window’ of opportunity that includes Nokia featuring Microsoft’s Windows operating system on its handsets. Nokia had till now stubbornly stuck to the software developed by Symbian, a London-based developer in which it holds majority shares. It will also distribute Windows Media Player-based video and music content on its handsets. Of course, Microsoft is not the pioneer in an alliance involving mobile phone makers. It is only ‘following to lead’ as it has done before — in the case of the Windows OS, taking a leaf from archrival Apple’s Mac OS. Again, as it did with Internet Explorer to turn the tide against Netscape Navigator. Handset maker Motorola last year joined Apple to develop phones that can work with its iTunes digital music service. SonyEricsson has also announced plans to work with its parent Sony Corp to develop cell phones using its Walkman brand and play Sony’s digital music content.

Whatever the antecedents of the deal, there cannot be much complaint when music is in the air. The tie-up will enable Nokia phones to directly channel music and video content from MSN. Microsoft’s e-mail products will also work seamlessly on Nokia cell phones. The handset maker will work on products that will sync with Microsoft’s top-selling corporate servers, enabling the extension of office for many major corporate houses.

While there is reason for music lovers to be upbeat, there are some tempering tones of apprehension too. Almost everybody using Windows OS must have sometime torn at the hair in despair from the attack of malicious codes, or viruses, that manage to sneak in despite high vigil. Some fear a few more hairs could get easily plucked if their mobile handsets too had the same susceptibility. We do know that it is a constant race for benign code writers to keep one step ahead of the malevolent. That would be the mad hope of the Nokia music maniacs of the future, even when clutching their handsets in ecstatic abandon.

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