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Nokia and the Ongoing "War of Ecosystems"

Is Nokia about to drop its entire mobile platform for Android or Windows Phone 7? Yesterday the buzz in the telecom space was all about an apparent memo to employees from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop that said Nokia was on a "burning platform" and needed to make some hard choices. The text of the memo, which Engadget has in full, is brilliantly written. The metaphor of the worker on a burning oil platform is well done... and I expect we'll hear more usage of that in the future by others.

The memo is also a very well done and brutally honest assessment of where Nokia stands in the mobile market and where the competition sits. What I found most compelling, though, was the commentary around the "war of ecosystems" (my emphasis added):

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

We ARE in a "war of ecosystems". No one can doubt that.

On a macro level it is Apple iOS versus Google Android, with Microsoft attempting to have some relevance with Windows Phone 7.

RIM would very much like to still be in the game with its Blackberry OS, but recent surveys don't bode well (66% of Verizon Blackberry users said they would likely move to the iPhone). HP would like to think it can be a player with WebOS (and is making a "big announcement" today) but that seriously remains to be seen. And Symbian? Well... read the Nokia CEO's letter...

The "war of ecosystems" is MUCH broader than the mobile market, of course... it's a war going on across the telecommunications and computer industry in general. It involves so many others, too, like Facebook and Twitter and everyone else in the "social" space...

It's a war around who can attract the most developers to build the most applications on a "platform"... it's a war around "open" versus "closed" ... around "simplicity" and "features"... around "applications" and "big, fat, dumb, pipes"... around "APIs"... around who can be our "portal" for communications ... about how can get the eyeballs...

It's a war for the future of our communications....

... and it's ALL about the ecosystems!

Who will survive?

That story is still being written... it's an exciting time... but a crazy, chaotic time, too...

P.S. Engadget is now saying this memo/letter is true based on multiple sources... and I'm inclined to believe it. From a PR point-of-view, it's a brilliant move to hype and tease about Nokia's announcement on Friday. Many people - myself included - probably had no idea that Nokia was going to be making a huge announcement on Friday.

Well played, Nokia. You got our attention.

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