While Microsoft is likely to reap massive rewards from its Nokia partnership it is hard to see how the deal does the Finnish company any favours. 14 per cent (roughly $17bn) was slashed from its share price on news of the agreement and while financial incentives were clearly the key driver it is hard to understand why Nokia didn't opt for Android or better yet, show the vision to buy Palm last year.
As it stands the Nokia/Microsoft deal places all the risk with Nokia. If it succeeds, Microsoft succeeds. If it fails, Nokia fails and Microsoft walks away. In the meantime the phasing out of Symbian will inevitably reduce Nokia's market share and significantly lower its value. Nokia's CEO is former Microsoft head of business Stephen Elop and he was at pains to stress to reporters during the show that he is not a Trojan Horse. Having seen Microsoft bring out its own MP3 players, its own games consoles and watch Apple's iPhone become responsible for nearly 40 per cent of its profits, we're not so sure.
Mobile World Congress 2011 was another lean year from Intel and while it claims to be on the verge of a major breakthrough in the smartphone/tablet sector it is not the first time we have heard this. Significantly Intel has no retail products on either of its two sparse stands and it suffered the indignity of Nokia pulling out of its promising MeeGo platform without so much as a warning. Intel has since promised to keep faith with MeeGo and is openly looking for partners, but the OS now looks likely to flounder or become niche at best.
Equally concerning was Intel's attack on Nokia, saying the company should have chosen Android. Airing its dirty laundry in public (and the one significant handset partnership it had) is hardly a way to win friends and influence people. The size and financial muscle of Intel is legendary so it isn't too late for the company to make its breakthrough. That said with ARM partners now gearing up for an attack on PCs and laptops come Windows 8 Intel needs to act decisively if it isn't to see the tables turn.
Much like Microsoft, yet another year goes past for RIM without a significant breakthrough. Its BlackBerry line up is looking distinctly long in the tooth and its inability to create a competitive touchscreen handset is worrying.
On the plus side the PlayBook has the potential to be a major success and contrary to rumours it will not need to be tied to a BlackBerry handset. The worry is the PlayBook's ever sliding release date (now described to us as "the summer") risks losing significant momentum even if analyst claims that it will be "dead on arrival" are sensationalist. At least PlayBook apps are looking good, but it will need to hit the ground running since the move to a new core OS (QNX) will render existing BlackBerry apps incompatible and we await to see just how compatible Android apps will be after a few Android updates.
It was telling that new Nokia CEO Steven Elop described smartphone platforms as a "three horse race" (in his opinion iOS, Android and Windows Phone). RIM's concern will be consumers don't start to think the same.