Google and Nokia: Enemies or friends?

Google and Nokia this week announced a search partnership, surprising some who thought the two are at war with one another. So is this just another example of industry "coopetition?" Or are these two companies truly making friends?

Just when they appeared to be embarking on a major battle over mobile platforms, the news broke from 3GSM in Barcelona this week that Google and Nokia are teaming up together on search.

The seeming contradictions in the relationship between the two giants in their respective fields are stirring a good deal of consternation among many observers, both professional and amateur, as reflected in jottings from the blogosphere.

Sparking the debate was a press announcement issued this week from 3GSM that Google's search engine is now going to be integrated with the Nokia search application, starting with high-end models that include the N96, N78, 6210 Navigator and 6220 Classic, and then extending into other models.

Taking note of the announcement, several bloggers have juxtaposed the search partnership against an article published in BusinessWeek this week.

"The partnership seems to lie in stark contrast to the article," writes M. G. Siegler, in his blog on VentureBeat. The BusinessWeek article "discusses [how] Nokia's new phones [are] meant to rival Google's entry into the mobile market, as Google is working with other manufacturers on phones running the Android mobile platform," wrote the VentureBeat blogger.

But is there a real discrepancy here, or are Google and Nokia just showing the kind of "coopetition" that has long marked relationships between firms such as Microsoft and Novell, or Sony and Toshiba, where two vendors partner in one market while competing against each other elsewhere?

Sun and IBM, for instance, have teamed up in areas such as Java and Linux, while competing against each other with their servers, technical workstations, and traditional Unix operating systems.

From that perspective, Google and Nokia could be seen as collaborating on search, while competing on other aspects of mobile platforms.

On the other hand, it could also be that today's press release was designed with the intention of genuinely announcing that the search partnership signals an effort by these two companies to get along better.

For its part, Google can certainly stand to set up some fresh partnerships in the mobile community, with Microsoft now acting aggressively in setting up its own mobile partnerships and acquisitions, while at the same time trying to buy Yahoo.

To Google, Nokia might now look like an increasingly valuable ally, having announced also this week it's spearheading the development of a worldwide mobile advertising network, in a partnership with Sprint and with the cooperation of about 70 mobile content providers.

But any direct benefits to Nokia of its Google pact are less clear at this time, with some critics contending that Yahoo Go is actually better suited to mobile searches than Google's search tool.

It's also quite possible, though, that the search partnership was going to happen anyway, and that the two companies decided they might as well take advantage of it to paint a happier public face on their relationship, emphasize any previous instances of collaboration, and reduce public and media perceptions that they're at war with one another.

The last line of their joint press release states, "The collaboration announced today builds on previous cooperation between Nokia and Google," pointing out that Google search was previously available on Nokia's Internet tablets and that the Nokia N95 8GB was the first mobile device to give full support to Google's YouTube service.

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