Nokia Investors Approve Microsoft Deal, App Developers Look Ahead

On Tuesday, 99.7 percent of Nokia's shareholders gave the nod for Microsoft to move forward in its acquisition of the Finnish smartphone company's device and services department for a price tag of $7.2 billion, a deal expected to be final in the first quarter of 2014.

Microsoft has placed its bet that Nokia will be the hardware key in propelling its Windows operating system for mobile devices into the ring with iOS and Android. According to IDC's mobile phone tracker, Windows is still in a distant third place to its two biggest competitors, but it is growing.

At the conclusion of the third quarter, Windows phones accounted for only 3.6 percent of the market share. But the company posted 156 percent year-over-year growth, shipping 9.5 million smartphones with the operating system over the 3.7 million shipped in the third quarter of 2012. Over 93 percent of the Windows phones came from Nokia.

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Still, a chasm separates the company from the 33.8 million phones that shipped with the iOS operating system and the 211.6 million that sported Android in the third quarter.

Partners are counting on Microsoft to capitalize on the acquisition and give the market a viable third mobile operating system option by leveraging its channel partners.

Developers, on the other hand, are just hoping to see the acquisition ultimately lead to more application downloads.

Ben Klopfer, technology solutions architect at Indianapolis-based eImagine Technology Group, an app development and software solutions provider, said he had highly anticipated the acquisition and was only disappointed it was a slow process.

"With apps for sale in the store, I was very interested in market saturation for the new Windows phone and it really wasn't where I wanted it to be," Klopfer said. He added he began hearing rumors and tracking the possibility of a Microsoft-Nokia deal nearly two years ago.

Klopfer said he expects the acquisition to "triple [Microsoft's] market share within four to five years, in terms of the phone market. That will probably result in triple, if not more, downloads as well."

From a developer standpoint, Klopfer said Windows is easiest to develop for considering the user interface allows for one app to work properly no matter the form factor, a space in which Klopfer said Apple is especially lacking.

"People tend to think Microsoft is late to the game sometimes, but in a lot of ways they have been too far ahead of it and then they back off much too soon," Klopfer said. "In a lot of ways, I think Windows 8 was ahead of its time."

Susan Hauser, corporate vice president of enterprise and partner group at Microsoft, told CRN that the first step for expanding Microsoft's mobile presence is allowing partners the ability to "build applications once, and provide that to their customers with one level of experience across their devices."

"I think Microsoft has their head screwed on straight around their mobile marketplace, converging [Windows] operating system from desktop to tablet to phones. Apple has been going in the opposite direction," Klopfer said.

Klopfer, a developer of over 30 applications in the Windows App Store who holds several Microsoft certifications, including Professional Developer, Solutions Developer and Technology specialist, said the bottom line is whether or not Microsoft will be able to get the devices with the operating system into the hands of customers.

"I know Microsoft is not particularly making a lot of money per device, which maybe the stock holders care about; that's not something I'm too concerned about," Klopfer said. "I think, with Nokia's name and manufacturing abilities, a lot more phones will be sold, which means a lot more applications will be downloaded."

According to Klopfer, timing is everything. Microsoft's mobile phone success will come down to how quickly Microsoft can make the most out of its acquisition and put its phones in the hands of its users.