I’ll be honest. I didn’t see this one coming. Nokia has had a problem with its smartphone operating system for a while – when I was selecting my phone last year and had a play with the offerings of Apple, Google and Microsoft with my user and developer hats on, Nokia wasn’t even in the picture.
So the news of Nokia embracing the new upstart in town (Windows Phone 7) is, at face value, good news for Microsoft. But as a developer, I’m not so sure. The big danger, from my perspective, is the f-word. Fragmentation. And fragmentation of user experience more than the hardware.
Where Windows Phone 7 scores is that, as I think Garry Whittaker said in a recent podcast, it is really, really hard to write a bad-looking application. The standard developer toolset makes it difficult to write an application that *doesn’t* look like it came with the phone (unless you’re feeling brave, and rolling your own with XNA.) This is a Good Thing.
If Nokia are, as is being hinted at, allowed to customise the Windows Phone 7 interface, then we may be faced with the fragmentation of user experience already seen on the Android platform. Rather than ‘delighting’ as Steve Ballmer put it, my applications may feel clunky and out of place on a customised Nokia platform in the same way that my forays in Android development looked slick on some phones, but decidedly dodgy on others.
Windows Phone 7 has a truly beautiful user interface. Having come from 2 years with an iPhone, I can’t imagine going back. But if I have to start worrying about my applications coping with various customised platforms then I may have to think hard about where I direct my limited resources.