Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Microsoft's 8 other mobile partners

February 11, 2011: 10:54 AM ET

The deal it announced with Nokia is hardly its first. Here's how the others turned out.

Nokia's Elop and Microsoft's Ballmer. Photo: Nokia

Early Friday morning, Microsoft (MSFT) and Nokia (NOK) announced a strategic partnership to answer the challenge posed by Apple (AAPL) and Google's (GOOG) smartphone platforms.

Tech watchers with long memories -- like Asymco's Horace Dediu -- will recall that this is not the first time Microsoft has found a partner willing to help it try to extend its desktop operating system monopoly into cellular telephony.

How did those deals turn out? The summaries below are excerpted from an item Dediu posted Friday. Click here to get the full flavor of his skepticism.

  • Ericsson (ERIC). Sept. 2000. What happened? Ericsson divested itself of the mobile division, forming a joint venture which would go on and make more strategic alliances with Microsoft over Windows Mobile, culminating in a loss of profits and eventual flight to Android.
  • Sendo. Feb. 2001. What happened? Sendo, after litigating IP issues with Microsoft, went bankrupt in 2005.
  • Motorola (MOT), Sept. 2003. What happened? Motorola launched a series of Windows Mobile phones culminating in the Motorola Q "Blackberry killer." As Motorola hit the rocks in profitability, new management reached for the Android life raft. The company now relies exclusively on the Droid franchise.
  • Palm (HPQ), Sept. 2005. What happened? Palm shipped a few Windows Mobile, famously dismissing Apple's potential entry as something "PC guys" could never achieve. A new CEO, a private placement and an acquisition later, the company is a division of HP making its own operating system.
  • Nortel, July 2006. What happened? Nortel declared bankruptcy two years later.
  • LG, Feb. 2009. What happened? LG made a few Windows Mobile devices but with WinMo uncompetitive, they abandoned the platform and moved to Android, losing years of market presence and all their profits.
  • Verizon (VZ) Jan. 2009. What happened? Bing did ship on some devices, but in October 2009 Droid came to Verizon.

And finally,

  • Nokia. No, not this deal, but the Aug. 2009 plan [announced by then Microsoft business division president Stephen Elop] to bring Microsoft Mobile Office to Nokia's Symbian devices. What happened? Two and a half years later the same Stephen Elop [now CEO of Nokia] announced that Symbian will be deprecated.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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