Nokia Microsoft Alliance aims to kill RIM’s BES

sharks There has been a lot of people who really should know better decrying the Nokia Microsoft partnership as bringing no value to both parties while not representing any real threat to the main target RIM.

They are of course very wrong.

Most bloggers and even analysts concentrate on the Office Mobile suite coming to Nokia’s Symbian OS, but of course this has never been the real star of the Windows Mobile experience.  The real jewel in the crown is Microsoft System Centre Mobile Device Manager, which brings an extremely detailed level of device management which rivals RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server in granularity of control and tie in Windows Mobile smartphones to the corporate network, just like Windows desktops.

Bringing SCMDM control to Nokia’s E-Series smartphone is a major coupe for the company that, despite massive volume, never really gained a foothold in enterprise. It will finally bring credibility to the company’s enterprise offerings which has seen the same erosion of market share against RIM as Microsoft has.

“The plan is to design System Center so customers will be able to provision applications to the Nokia mobile device, and update the applications, so customers have secure and productive mobile computing experience,” according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

While this advantage to Nokia is clear, the question is of course what it brings to Microsoft. 

Microsoft has developed a number of technologies, like SCMDM, but also like Office Communicator Server, and Sharepoint server, which are pretty amazing but are essentially proprietary solutions for Windows Mobile.  By opening the technology up to other platforms, the likelihood of the services being adopted by enterprises wary of being tied in to one platform increases significantly.

A similar synergistic effect is expected with the now wide adoption of Exchange Activesync, now an expected feature of a smartphone with any enterprise ambitions, and which has helped Microsoft demolish Lotus Notes’s market share from 40% in 2005 to 10% in 2009.

Of course the conclusion most  commenters jump to is that supporting Nokia means Microsoft has no confidence in Windows Mobile.  This ignores Microsoft’s long-standing position on its technologies on other platforms.  Microsoft is happy (or possibly forces to be happy by various anti-trust rulings) to share its technologies with other platforms, which only helps Microsoft by making it the standard,  but they have long said their advantage will be having the best, most full implementation of the technologies, something that can already certainly be said about Exchange server support. Where Microsoft has traditionally fallen down is making their implementation attractive to users due to ease of use issues, but with this being a focus of future versions of Windows Mobile this is not expected to be an issue much longer.

To conclude, RIM should certainly be more and more worried that nearly 80% of the smartphone market will soon support Microsoft technologies, versus their own single-vendor implementation, with no clear route to countering this. They should be worried indeed.