Stephen Elop may yet want to climb back on burning platform

Windows Phone 7 patch reportedly 'bricking' some users' handsets

Credit: Source: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop speaks, watched by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer at a Nokia event in London February 11, 2011. Nokia and Microsoft teamed up to build an iPhone killer in a desperate attempt to take on Google and Apple in the fast-growing smartphone market.

Remember how Nokia CEO Stephen Elop likened the Finnish cellphone maker's disintegrating market situation to a man standing on a burning oil platform in the middle of the North Sea? And that when standing on a burning platform, making a leap into the unknown -- however foreboding -- is the only sensible option?

That was a couple of weeks ago, right before Elop and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled a partnership between the two benighted smartphone players. Of course, in Elop's allegory, the leap into the unknown was his decision to build Nokia smartphones powered by Microsoft's Windows 7 mobile OS, essentially abandoning Nokia's own Symbian mobile OS.

(Also see: Microsoft-Nokia: A marriage of mobile mediocrities)

You have to wonder if Elop, after reading this kind of thing, wishes it wasn't too late to climb back on that burning platform and take his chances. From CNET's Matt Hickey:

Users of Windows Phone 7 handsets must have had high hopes when Microsoft released a patch yesterday that updated the operating system to improve the process of installing a forthcoming OS update. But some users, notably those with Samsung's Omnia 7, are reporting that the patch is bricking their phones, making them useless.

It's not all Omnias, and we can't confirm if it's happening on other Windows Phones, but there are reports on Web sites like WinRumors and Twitter that some users say the update is making their phones unusable.

Microsoft's helpful response was to recommend that WP7 brick owners return their WP7 bricks to the store where they bought them to exchange them for WP7 non-bricks. Because customers love having to return computing devices and exchange them for the same computing device that didn't work in the first place. Except for when they'd rather take a re-stocking fee hit and get a smartphone that lacks the bricking feature from another manufacturer.

Now, we may not even see Nokia's version of WP7 until next year, so there's time to work out the glitches. But if those kinds of problems plague Nokia's WP7 smartphones, the bad word-of-mouth will make it hard for the two partners to present a credible argument for smartphone customers to buy their product at a time when they really could use a credible argument for smartphone customers to buy their product. And suddenly the chilly North Atlantic waters will seem that much colder.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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