Nokia's exclusive apps put into question Microsoft's Windows Phone philosophy

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Nokia's exclusive apps put into question Microsoft's Windows Phone philosophy
Nokia is certainly not the first manufacturer to announce a set of exclusive apps on a platform, and it most definitely won't be the last one, but it could very well be the most damaging example we've seen yet. Most manufacturers will say that exclusive apps are a way to differentiate devices in the market, and we all know that Windows Phone manufacturers are looking for as many ways to differentiate as possible. As yet, Microsoft is not allowing any type of skinning or UI differentiation, so built-in apps are the only option right now. 

Samsung's Windows Phone devices have a proprietary photo editor, as well as other apps. HTC's Windows Phone devices have the HTC Hub (weather, news stocks), HTC Watch (video streaming), and probably the best of all is the Attentive Phone app, which allows nice options like muting when the phone is flipped, quieting the ringer when the phone is moved, or making the ringer louder if it's in a bag or pocket. These are all small additions that make the user's experience with the phone a bit better or offers a nice service, but Nokia is going beyond that to a troubling degree. 


Nokia has the Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive apps, which are proprietary, although the benefits of those will be passed back to the rest of the Windows Phone ecosystem with the hybrid Nokia/Bing Maps that are coming as part of the Microsoft/Nokia partnership. But, today's announcement of exclusive third party apps for Nokia phones is dangerous, and could be worrying for other manufacturers. 

This isn't simply a matter of differentiation, this is a push to make Nokia the de facto choice for anyone even remotely interested in a Windows Phone handset. Nokia already has a better version of the ESPN app running on its Lumia handsets than other WP manufacturers do, but today's announcement adds more exclusive content and ESPN apps for Nokia for the next year, including Olympics news. Nokia announced exclusive content from two of the biggest mobile game developers around: Rovio and EA. And, Nokia is also getting an exclusive from Groupon. 

Nokia is getting all of these apps on between 6 and 12 month exclusives at a time when every Windows Phone manufacturer needs as much help as possible. The Windows Phone platform already has the reputation as an OS without many apps. This isn't exactly true given that there are now over 80,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, but there is a noticeable lack of official apps and big name developers. Google has a search app on WP7, but nothing for Gmail, YouTube, Talk, Docs, or any other products (although Google+ is rumored to be coming). There is no official Read It Later app or a variety of other services. There are options available for just about anything you'd want, but the quality can be suspect at times, and you'll have to be okay with giving your login credentials to unofficial sources. 

We have seen app exclusives with Android, most notably with Skype being exclusive to Verizon for a time, but Android was established at that point and Android was on a sharp upswing, so a timed exclusive app was annoying, but an acceptable way for carriers and manufacturers to differentiate. This is especially true with Google's policy of letting Android be the Wild West. Microsoft on the other hand has tried to keep the Windows Phone ecosystem cohesive and unified and bring up the platform as a whole, whereas Google let the various Android camps fight it out until everyone was better and Android was a success. 

Microsoft's philosophy problem

Google promoted differentiation; so, when that's what we got, it was understandable and relatively acceptable because aside from a few notable exceptions, like Skype, apps were available on all devices. Microsoft has been fighting against differentiation because it doesn't want to see manufacturers succeeding and bringing along Windows Phone, as was the case with Android. Microsoft has always played it as though it wants Windows Phone to succeed and bring along the hardware partners. At least, that seemed to be the case until Nokia came along, because if the platform is the focus, this is no time to have exclusive software, especially software on the level of ESPN, EA and Angry Birds content. Those are big names, those should be standard across handsets. 

It is perfectly possible that Microsoft is allowing Nokia to become the top dog of Windows Phone simply to rationalize the partnership costs, but also to bring a focal point to the platform. For a time, Motorola's DROID line was the focal point of the Android platform, at least until Samsung started to take over with its Galaxy line. Since the Windows Phone ecosystem hasn't had a standout manufacturer, Microsoft brought in Nokia to be that standout. The question is just how far Microsoft is willing to let this go. 

It could be that Microsoft is letting Nokia take the lead in order to build consumer awareness ahead of the big Windows Phone 8 launch this fall. But, it is starting to look like Microsoft is willing to sacrifice all of the other manufacturers in that process. If Nokia continues to get exclusives, not to mention a huge marketing budget (which could very well be subsidized by Microsoft), there may not be any other hardware partners left for the WP8 launch. Additionally, existing Windows Phone users may be turned off to the platform if they see nice apps on the Nokia devices that aren't available to them.

The question is one of Microsoft's basic philosophy. The platform hasn't seen a lot of traction with the all-for-one philosophy, but at the same time it's unclear if Windows Phone can succeed with just Nokia making handsets. It seems likely given Nokia's history, and Microsoft's deep pockets. But, having other manufacturers disappear, and increased exclusives for Nokia could also lead to users being alienated as well. Word of mouth and customer recommendations are just as important as any big marketing campaign, as Microsoft must have learned from Apple by now, so Microsoft would be effectively throwing away the current user base in favor of whatever Nokia can create.  


It's no secret that Windows Phone is in a tough spot and it needs a boost. It has been slowly gaining traction in the market, but it has been moving far too slowly for the manufacturers and carriers involved. It has gotten to the point to where carriers have flat out said that they won't agree to deliver the Windows Phone 8 update unless there is a pretty sharp uptick in consumer interest. And, on top of that Nokia is having financial troubles and may need an extra bailout from Microsoft on top of the $1 billion a year it is already receiving as part of the Windows Phone agreement. 

So, we've already got a platform that has unhappy manufacturers, unhappy carriers, and a user base that is growing, but growing very slowly. Then on top of that we have the platform's creator paying more than $1 billion every year to support one hardware partner. Everyone has jumped on Google for purchasing Motorola under the assumption that Google would cause the destruction of the Android ecosystem by favoring Motorola over other manufacturers even though there has yet to be any evidence those fears are founded. Yet, no one seems to care that Microsoft has given ample evidence that it is perfectly willing to have Nokia be the sole supplier of Windows Phone handsets. 

The success of Windows Phone as a platform is not a guarantee right now, and if Microsoft pushes too hard for Nokia to be the lead manufacturer it could cause big problems. Sure, it may end up in an Android situation where manufacturers compete to make the best devices, and the entire ecosystem is lifted up as a result. However, there is also a distinct possibility that other hardware partners will simply abandon the platform in the hands of Nokia and Microsoft. Nokia is a capable manufacturer, but even just the PR fallout from more and more manufacturers leaving the platform could be too much for even Nokia and Microsoft to overcome. 

So, moving forward is Microsoft still aiming for an all-for-one ethos in Windows Phone, or has it become simply Nokia-for-all?



1. Coolaaron88

Posts: 10; Member since: Jun 20, 2011

You make it sound like all of the apps that are exclusive to Nokia Lumia devices are like that forever. They are timed exclusives meaning they will be available to everyone at some point. I feel like this article is over-sensationalizing this entire exclusive app issue.

5. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Given the market situation of Windows Phone a one year exclusive is a much bigger deal than a timed-exclusive on an established system like Android. WP is in a very tenuous situation where no one is happy.

28. azafirster

Posts: 44; Member since: May 01, 2012

Yeah I agree, try having a peek at their customer feedback website at main WP site, the number of complaints are increasing, the categories of problem are swelling, no updates as yet. The number of complaints there shows a grim customer experience. They don't just have these exclusive-with-nokia apps going on, try do a research on regionalizing marketplace. Apple and android don't do this, not to my knowledge. Singapore and malaysia has different marketplace alltogether, but geographically we are neighbours, and yet WP (in my case nokia) gives different marketplace.

8. AndroidShiz

Posts: 154; Member since: Nov 08, 2011

When you have a phone that sucks lizard balls in SALES already, having exclusives for 6 to 12 months is stupid. Then again Microsoft kinda forces the other manufactures to make Windows phones in exchange for not making the questionable patent fees they have to pay for parts of Android even higher. If not for being forced, I doubt any of these manufactures, except the Microsoft Manchurian candidate led Nokia, would even make them, any more than they would produce a Blackberry or Palm. Android and iPhone represent perpetual prosperity, while Windows Phone is much like a failed economy that the government keeps pouring money into even though the masses will never choose it in impressive numbers. In others words it ain't making any "REAL" money anytime soon. I'm not dissing it, it just truthfully is not the choice of most people. I tried it full heartedly, and went right back to my GSM Galaxy Sexus. Not getting another phone until the next REAL Android from Google launches again.

53. kozmo13

Posts: 1; Member since: May 10, 2012

you obviously totally fail at perspective. android has been on top for about 4 days. and that's because it is entirely free. here's a tip... everyone on top was on bottom one time. everyone who was ever on top, isn't any more. it's called "business cycles". in all likelihood, android will flame out faster than rim... given their business model and upgrade landscape. i was in verizon and att in the past two days. every sales person i talked to walked me away from android. frankly, who cares? i'm not on a team. i just want a phone... like the *actual* masses.

2. Whodaboss

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 18, 2011

I have no problems with phone makers having their exclusive rights for certian or with any developers for any software design. None whatsoever. Each phone maker should at least attempt to make their device distinctive and pleasing to the public. Don't blame Nokia. Thank goodness for Nokia at least they are putting in the effort instead of this wait and see attitude. If WP fails it sure won't be because of Nokia. This is why I will purchase a Lumia 900 once it or if it hits TMo.

3. steelicon

Posts: 318; Member since: Apr 02, 2011 This is what happens when you abandon something wonderful. Someone takes it away and then you realize you've thrown away the family jewels.

26. tigerforce7

Posts: 2; Member since: May 09, 2012

Aye. I never had the chance to use Harmattan but it looked pretty sweet. Hopefully Nokia can carry on some of its ideas in their Windows Phones.

4. ron1niro

Posts: 54; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Why phonearena? Again, painting a picture that is not exactly right. First of all, nokia maps, nokia drive and nokia transit belong to nokia and therefore, they can choose whether to share them or not. Second, the exclusive apps are only going to be so for a certain amount of time, next, Nokia is investing a lot into windows phone, the moment you hear windows phone, you think of Lumia, other manufacturers are not investing much of their time or resources on windows phone, so nokia deserves this. If samsung or htc want, they can also strike deals with other developers. This could also be good for the platform since other manufacturers may also start thinking of doing something special to keep up with Nokia. Who's playing catch up now huh?

6. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The issue isn't Nokia Maps or Nokia Drive, because as is said in the article, those are being distributed to the rest of the ecosystem as part of the partnership deal. It would be great if other manufacturers try to compete with Nokia, but given that the success of WP isn't yet assured, it may end up that the manufacturers just abandon the platform instead, which could be more trouble for Microsoft.

7. joeymk

Posts: 101; Member since: Jan 26, 2012

They have it under control. Don't you worry. And google ha, google is crying for buying Motorola.

9. Glim12808

Posts: 394; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

It's too early to tell whether the alarmist stance of Michael H. is correct or not. But I have a gut feeling that had MS left the marketing and the spreading of the WP platform in the hands of Samsung, HTC, LG, et al, marketshare of WP would still be stagnating in the doldrums of 0.5% area. These OEMs are just too invested in Android to find the time, expend effort, spend money in promoting WP. And I don't blame them. They are all in the business of making money and it is in Android where they are making the most money. On the other hand, It was only when Nokia entered the picture that marketshare of WP begun to pick-up. And it's not surprising why Nokia is so invested in WP. They need the billions that only MS can make available to them! Google too has those billions. But why would Google put those billions out for Nokia when it has already the big boys, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, et al, in its corner? Whether it's good for business or not, only time will tell. I think things will become clearer when WP8 comes around. But in any case, I can't blame MS for pandering to Nokia because MS needs Nokia, just as much as Nokia needs MS! As the cliche goes, it's a marriage made in heaven. LOL!

13. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

As I've said before, Android has spoiled manufacturers. It used to be that they could only differentiate in hardware and proprietary apps, but then Android gave the option to differentiate the UI. Once that happened manufacturers could market devices and show off all their features. But with WP, marketing would be showing off Microsoft's UI and manufacturers now feel like that's paying to advertise Microsoft not the proprietary features.

10. Penny

Posts: 1859; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I was under the impression that each manufacturer can make apps exclusively for itself. So Nokia can make apps only for Nokias, and HTC can make apps exclusively for HTC (like the HTC Hub that I have). If what I am thinking is the case, then it's not an exclusivity as much as it is something to differentiate, which all manufacturers can do. Microsoft releasing a Bing/Drive Hybrid later down the road does not seem egregious to me either. Think about it this way: due to their partnership, Nokia is continuing to develop in its own areas of specialization (mapping, camera) and is going to implement it in its own windows phones as a point of differentiation. However, because the partnership is in place, they will also share these developments with Microsoft to share platform-wide. In order to get these advancements, Microsoft offers Nokia greater access to Windows Phone's source code and development process. Bottom line is that Microsoft definitely is favoring Nokia over other hardware manufacturers, but they are getting something worthwhile in return: more rapid development of advanced features and more dedicated marketing for the entire platform. Not saying this isn't favoritism, but it works in favor of Microsoft, and thus their platform, and thus the other manufacturers as well.

12. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The difference is between making proprietary apps and buying exclusivity of third party apps that everyone wants.

48. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

If nokia is getting a rovio exclusive, I'd call foul on that. There is no reason for it. However, the other apps, other than Nokia Drive, I dont see a problem with. I know we've had our conversations about the devices, and just like i mentioned with you, i say to every customer... if you want a WP7 device, right now u need a Nokia so you can get the GPS/Maps integration. Thats great for nokia, but bad for the ecosystem because that a huge and important part of any smartphone now. Having part of the ecosystem with such an important service, and the other half without makes a dangerously strong tilt towards the half that does. The HTC Radar all but stopped selling the moment the Lumia 710 came out, and the GPS was by far the biggest reason. Will other manufacturers leave Windows Phone? Who's actually making WP7 devices right now? Its pretty much just Nokia, Samsung and HTC. I doubt any of the 3 of them will leave the arena unless its just too heavily tilted towards Nokia to the point they cant profit. Nokia obviously isnt leaving. HTC has a long and successful history with MS so I dont think they would drop it unless they had to. Samsung likes having a wide portfolio and also has a long history with MS, so the same applies to them. However, it will definitely keep other partners from entering the fray unless things change. Those 3 manufacturers all have their points of power. Nokia has GPS integrations and cameras, HTC loves integrating and simplifying common tasks, and Samsung is the hardware king that is a solid jack of all trades and master of none.

11. tward291

Posts: 559; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

This is a great thing at the day if Nokia is the only one making windows phones so b it there the best anyway. Microsoft should just let Nokia make windows phone no one else puts time in except maybe htc. Then once t takes offthe others would try to hop on but it be to late Nokia would dominate te market. When you think windows you think Nokia anyway. And Ms should never allow poems to change the skin they need to compete on apps and specs

15. paulyyd

Posts: 340; Member since: Jan 08, 2011

lol you suck at writing articles

16. jimjam unregistered

If you want those apps that bad just buy a Nokia wp7 ... Problem solved.

32. raunak

Posts: 507; Member since: Oct 12, 2011

that's the point here, that if everyone is forced to buy Lumias then other manufacturers MIGHT get frustrated and abandon WP.

17. vvelez5

Posts: 623; Member since: Jan 29, 2011

Honestly there is nothing wrong with the exclusivity of apps for manufactures. Nokia is the only manufacture that jumped into Windows Phone with two feet and I don't see the problem with getting exclusivity deals. I also don't see a problem with any other manufacturer doing that either on any OS. You have to differentiate yourself from the competition and although Microsoft wants their OS to be the top OS, the manufacturers want to be the top manufacturer as well. There are at least three battles going on in the mobile phone market right now with the OS battle, the manufacture battle, and the carriers battle.

18. SemperFiV12

Posts: 949; Member since: Nov 09, 2010

Considering all these manufacturers are waiting for Windows 8 for their tablets... It is completely ridiculous that these manufacturers will do away with Windows Phone. They are not too happy, rightfully so, but all will be cured with the EMINENT rise of the market share for Windows Phones.

19. iWallE

Posts: 48; Member since: Oct 10, 2011

Microsoft still don't seem to get the bigger picture. They are trying to make a mobile OS following the same principles as with a desktop one. But, as it recently turns out, PCs are just tools that enable us to do things. Even people who use their PC primarily for fun (games, movies, etc.) don't love it. They do love their mobile devices though, judging by the passionate comments and outright warfare that is going on over tech blogs and discussion forums. Ever heard of someone offending someone else over the choice of a Dell or Acer PC instead of HP? Since the launch of the original iPhone, phones have proudly entered the category of devices that people usually develop an emotional connection with. In this category, smartphones are probably second only to cars. And because people love their phones, they expect that phonemakers should also show some love in producing them. Beautiful design, polished software, some nice features like flipping the phone over to make it stop ringing, or providing xx GB of free cloud storage, or preventing the phone from sleeping while you look at it - that's what can make customers favor one phone over the others. And I'm sure that most "ordinary" customers can't make a difference between the versions of Android and don't even have an idea how "stock" Android looks and feels. They accept OEM skins as an integral part of the smartphone experience, they love or hate it and based on that, they want it on their next phone or not. What Microsoft has achieved is make all WP phones look and feel like they come out of a conveyor - regardless of manufacturer and hardware design. No emotions, no love - just uniform looks and features throughout the whole ecosystem. If that's what they really want, they might as well chase away all manufacturers and partner with Nokia to make a single phone model. The PC wars were different - that was a fight between two closed systems. One of them took the path of licencing and it became a single-horse race. But in a world where Android exists, I believe there is no place for a closed system that's not made by Apple. Not in the mainstream at least.

25. tigerforce7

Posts: 2; Member since: May 09, 2012

Endless theorising in the post above. I love my Lumia 800. Every time I hold it, I appreciate its slim, curvy body anew. Every time I think I'm bored with the accent colour, I switch to another and I appreciate the entire refresh that brings - it really is like holding a new phone I can fall in love with all over again. And the beautiful motion and fluidity of the best parts of the interface more than make up for the odd bits. Everything on my phone is mine. My favourite apps, my OneNotes, my playlists, my saved games, and my closest friends all pinned to my start menu. Everything I need is here. This post may seem gushing, and it is - but it is not for the poster above to decide whether something is "lovable". In many ways, Windows Phones are more personal, less uniform than their counterparts, and that's nothing to do with Nokia's work. Identical looks and features - yes. Identical content - nope.

37. iWallE

Posts: 48; Member since: Oct 10, 2011

Sorry, I really like to theorize sometimes. Helps me to arrange my own thoughts :) In a way your reaction proves my point about people loving their smartphones. I don't think WP isn't "lovable". That's the thing about emotions - they are personal. I personally feel WP is too cold and uniform. The "identical looks" part spoils it for me. You obviously think otherwise. There will always be people who like WP. But I believe their number won't ever come close to that of iOS and Android fans with the direction Microsoft is now taking. The Metro UI shows a passion for design that has to be respected. But it's still not enough. Android has spoilt not only manufacturers, but users as well. Most people will prefer the visual differentiation that Android brings to the uniform WP experience. Sleek minimalist interface with little customization options is closer to iOS territory and stealing clients from Apple... well, it's quite a difficult task to say the least. Still, I might be wrong. And Windows8/WP8 could move the game up with PC-mobile integration. Time will tell. Currently statistics are in line with my opinion that there's no place for a third mobile OS, unless it brings something revolutionary to the market.

35. Altair

Posts: 367; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

I don't know what you are talking about. I have been using my PC for long time and loved everything I could do with it. I've tryed IBM OS and MAC, but always returned to Windows and good selection of stuff in there. I've also used iPhone4, Samsung Galaxy, but returned to my lovingly Nokia N8 because of its superior camera. Waiting for Nokia Purewiev 808 or WP version of it. There are just 3 things I need from a phone. I need a phone itself, so I can keep contact to my friends. Then maps + navigator and finally a good camera. Obviously some people wants n+1 apps for a phone to play with. I more likely play with my PC. There are a lot of good games and programs in PC, that no phones or tables can offer for long time.

20. Owoteva

Posts: 9; Member since: Jan 09, 2012

Good to see the anti-WP bias still alive and strong at PhoneArena. Personally I don't see too much difference between exclusive apps and specs. Look at Android. Want a 4.7 in screen with 8MP and ICS? get a One X. Want 12MP and a dedicated camera button? Xperia S. Plain vanilla ICS? Galaxy Nexus. Rather a small screen and potential app incompatibility? Xperia Ray, HTC Wildfire anyone? It's just a case of finding the manufacturer that makes what you want and go get it. As for existing WP users smarting about the (timed) exclusives, they may be out of contract by the time these apps are for the whole market or they just buy a Nokia. Any with AT&T, Samsung & Sprint remaining bullish about WP8 (and let's not forget all this talk about a viable third platform) I can't see how upset they can be with Microsoft, perhaps just somewhat annoyed.

42. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Why is it bias to point out that alienating manufacturers might not be a good idea for a platform that still doesn't even make up 2% of the market?

21. mobilefuture

Posts: 224; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

how can you guys say that other conpanies will abandon microsoft's window phone 7 OS? Did you guys forget the samsung focus 2 already? Its only been 2 days i think. Talk about being ignorant...

22. mobilefuture

Posts: 224; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

how can you guys say that other conpanies will abandon microsoft's window phone 7 OS? Did you guys forget the samsung focus 2 already? Its only been 2 days i think. Talk about being ignorant...

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