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Why Nokia should produce an “open phone”

Poor Nokia is struggling with waning market share but it is doing a great job at getting press coverage around the upcoming Lumia 925. We know a few things about the phone – it has a 4.5in AMOLED screen, a fancy camera, and a cool design – but when it appears, will we know anyone who uses one?

I'm not sure what, if anything, could turn the corner for Nokia's Windows Phone strategy, which seems failed by any metric. Yet the company persists. At this point I don't think it is going to be mere design that will win the day. It will take a radical new idea.

How about developing a new phone paradigm? The open phone. It would be able to change operating systems, a feat achievable with some engineering although it may involve swapping out some modules.

Right now the smartphone has become standardised in what it can and cannot do. There is very little that can differentiate it from any old iPhone or Android. But when people get to play with every sort of smartphone OS, they may find that one GUI is more compelling than another.

Why can't a phone be like a desktop computer in this sense? The basic functionalities underlie the OS and there is hardly a difference from one computer to the next except for differing hard disk capacities, main memory, and changing peripherals. These variables are all accounted for by the OS.

To get the computer to do your bidding and utilise all the gear running underneath, you install an OS to talk to the various functions and parts. On an Intel machine you can install countless versions of Windows, Linux, or even a proprietary OS if you want. There have even been clones of the Apple OS produced for the PC.

People often call smartphones pocket computers. They have the same variables that PCs have insofar as architecture is concerned. This means there is a CPU, main memory, storage, and so on. The primary function of the smartphone is to communicate wirelessly, but this is internal hardware not unlike hardware found in a PC. Think Wi-Fi.

This basic structure lends itself to differing operating systems. I think it would be cool to be able to install a Windows OS on my old Samsung phone that now runs Android. And perhaps I should be addressing Microsoft with this idea too. Do you want people using Windows OS? Offer to install it for £5 on various devices currently running Android.

If Microsoft did this, I am sure many techies would just switch over for kicks. I know I would. But how would this help Nokia? If the company promoted the idea of a free and open market for the phone OS, meaning you could install one then swap it out for another, people would flock to Nokia phones.

And what about dual-boot with two or more operating systems on the phone? I would love to be able to boot to Windows Phone 8 and use it instead of my regular Android OS, just because it would be fun. Adding fun to the equation never hurts sales.

So Nokia, imagine your next ad featuring a Nokia phone user who changes from one OS to another. Maybe include the old Palm OS, the Linux phone OS, Windows Phone, Android, and perhaps others. I would buy one of these phones immediately.

I see no reason why this cannot be done.