News Analysis: Outside of the United States, Nokia is a major player in the wireless landscape; its phones are ubiquitous. This may prove to be a decisive advantage for Microsoft as the two companies strive to make Windows Phone 7 a top player in the global wireless market.
In the world of mobile communications, the world is
divided into two basic places: the United States
and everywhere else. While I hate to think of this as an Us versus Them
situation, that's actually what it is. The reason ultimately boils down to
relatively little competition in the way phones are sold in the United
States, and in how wireless companies
In the United States,
for example, you see a nearly even divide between CDMA and GSM phones. Outside
of North America, CDMA hardly exists. Just about
everyone uses GSM, the frequencies are mostly compatible, and the carriers don't
have nearly the leverage on handset selection as they do in the U.S.
Visit a mobile phone store outside the U.S.,
for example, and you'll find phones, but you'll find either no carrier presence
at all or you'll find that the store will carry SIM
cards for several carriers. While the carriers do have their own phone stores,
they don't have the dominance that they have in the U.S.
Even the process of adding money to your SIM
card is divorced from the carriers. When I was in Germany
covering CeBIT, I added money to my German T-Mobile SIM
card by going to the Shell service station across the street from my
This nearly total disconnect between phones and carriers
means that there are a lot more phones available outside the U.S.
In addition, the differences in economic circumstances and social
communications are different from what happens in the U.S.
In India, for
example, there is an entire social network based not on Web browsing as you do
with Facebook, but on SMS messages.
This is the world that phone makers compete in outside
the U.S. and
this is why
Nokia has become such a huge player
. In the U.S.,
most of the competition seems to be centered around smartphones. Elsewhere,
most people can't afford an iPhone or a BlackBerry. They need a phone with some
features, but it has to be affordable. Nokia is a major player in this global
phone market, and its Symbian operating system is a major part of Nokia
This outside-the-U.S. phone market is now changing.
Nokia, which has long been the biggest European phone company, has decided to
move ahead with Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft. This is the phone OS that will
power the smartphones and in many cases the higher-end feature phones in the
rest of the world. As a result, recent reports that Windows
Phone 7 may be a dominant player
might not be too far off the mark.