Does “One Microsoft” include Nokia, Xbox apps?

Last Friday, Microsoft and Nokia made it official, and now the Nokia devices and services businesses (apart from HERE Maps and location services) are now part of Microsoft. This morning, in a live blog session on the Nokia Conversations blog (which is also now part of Microsoft, according to one of the answers in the session), Former Nokia CEO and new Executive Vice President of the Microsoft Devices group, Stephen Elop, answered questions about everything from naming (they’re looking for a new, nice and short, name for the “go forward smartphone brand”), to Nokia X (plans are to continue with the Android powered Nokia device), to the decision to go with Windows Phone over Android (Nokia was concerned about “a collision course” with Samsung). As part of the QnA, Elop and a questioner touched on the future of Nokia’s apps for the likes of Nokia Music and Nokia Camera:

Comment From Teemu Pikkarainen What is going to happen to Nokia Mixradio, Nokia TV, Nokia Camera apps and other Nokia apps in Lumia phones. Are they gonna disappear. Which one, Nokia or Microsoft, is going to continue developing and updating them?

Stephen Elop: We have been building a lot of app’s that have been specific to Lumia, but now those people and efforts will transfer to MSFT. We believe that these types of capabilities are critical to differentiation, so you will see these themes continue.

As we’ve been hammering home recently, Microsoft’s track record in assimilating these types of product groups into the core of what’s happening in Redmond has been less than stellar. But Microsoft’s ability to produce a new hybrid service built on both, say, Xbox Music and Nokia MixRadio will be critical in not only moving the merger forward, but in creating a faster moving, more innovative, services focused operation that can produce best in class apps.

To call Xbox Music anything close to being “best in class” at this point is laughable, in short, it’s a bit of a mess. Writing recently over at enConnected, our friend and Xbox MVP Marques Lyons sums up the problems with both Xbox One and Xbox Music:

I’ve been fascinated by the messaging around Xbox Music, and, in kicking around thoughts in my head the last couple of days, realized that both this music service and Xbox One, in general, suffer from the same problem. You see, both offerings want to be seen as the be-all, end-all for everything you need in entertainment. Xbox One wants to be your all-inclusive entertainment console and Xbox Music wants to be your one-stop-shop for everything music related.

Likewise with Xbox Music, they need that thing that ropes people in. For Zune, and everything people said about it, they made their core feature be community. That you could come to Zune to discuss music with like minded people, hear what others are playing, share playlists and be very social with what is really a social medium to begin with. Now, there doesn’t seem to be that one *thing*.

Maybe it’ll be the way Xbox Music works with OneDrive, or maybe it’ll be how Xbox Music works great no matter the platform. Or maybe it’ll just be as simple as how they let you play and interact with your music collection. Whatever it is, that needs to happen soon.

Come for the music, stay for everything else.

Nokia MixRadio potentially brings not only new blood but new functionality to the table, especially with a more far reaching set of licensing agreements that could bring Xbox Music to more regions around the world. That non US-centric focus may hurt a bit, too, however, as most of the MixRadio team is based in Finland, and from what we’re hearing, will continue to be. Perhaps the teams will make use of the newly announced free Group Video feature and Skype their way to a newer, better music service, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

We’re hopeful that the four months that Microsoft and Nokia lost tied up in the red tape of regulatory approval wasn’t wasted, and the folks at Xbox Music and Nokia MixRadio, along with the other apps, have been thinking and acting on how to create a better set of apps. We’re also hopeful, even as Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop have made fun of the old style long winded naming conventions, that a new name for “Microsoft Mobility” phones won’t drag the innovation down, as it seems to have done with the SkyDrive/OneDrive fiasco. We’ll know in a few months (hopefully less) if our hopes are realized.