Reports in The New York Times and elsewhere say Elop will unveil the new handset at an investor conference next Friday in London. Based on Windows Phone 7, the device would mark an unlikely shift away from the Symbian operating system that's led the global market for years.
In the U.S., Symbian has become less of a factor with the rise of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iOS and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android. And don't forget Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry, which appeals to corporate buyers who might otherwise choose Nokia.
Why not partner with any of these three? To be fair, we don't yet know if there's a partnership of any kind. But if one is forthcoming, I can see the logic in locking hands with Mr. Softy. Nokia and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) are already partners.
The two companies paired up in 2009 to offer a mobile edition of the Office productivity suite to users of Symbian smartphones. Elop was president of Microsoft's Business Division at the time. He knows the investments both companies have made to understand each other's hardware and software.
Even so, Nokia also may not have much of a choice when it comes to smartphone platform suppliers. Neither iOS nor BlackBerry is an open platform, which leaves just Windows Phone 7 and Android.
Android has plenty of advantages. Not only is the OS growing fast, but it's also becoming more functional with the forthcoming release of the "Honeycomb" edition of the software. Trouble is, in adopting it, Nokia would be jumping into a big pool that already includes rivals Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) , Samsung, and HTC.
Windows Phone 7 looks to be about as functional yet it isn't as popular. Rather, it's a good-looking OS that has yet to find a dream date for the mobile ball. Don't be surprised if Elop wants Nokia to become that partner.
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