While Microsoft's recent acquisition of Nokia's smartphone division is potentially good news for Microsoft, the company needs to work on its branding issues if it's to start seeing greater success in the mobile hardware industry, a Gartner analyst has told Computing.
Shortly after a weeping Steve Ballmer left the career stage to (I've Had) The Time of My Life, Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza maintains that a new CEO could begin to turn the corner for a company plagued by an embarrassing history of screaming ebullience, breakdancing school children and even - a few years earlier - A Night at the Roxbury-inspired in-car bopping.
"It could help if it's a person who understands the importance of, and the execution of mobile," suggested Cozza, "and it should be a person who also understands devices now that Microsoft wants to compete - and rightly so - by being more of a hardware company."
But the real potential transformation for Microsoft's uncool image lies, said Cozza, in tying together the splayed ends of the company's product portfolio. The Nokia brand - even if Microsoft doesn't know it - could come to some amount of assistance here.
"I want to stress the fact that the branding challenges remain the same," said Cozza.
"One of the biggest challenges we pointed out in our research is the perception of the brand, but I think that today there is more of an emotional link from consumers to the Windows phone brand."
Cozza believes that features such as Nokia's PureView, if spun correctly, could fuse with Microsoft's already technically respectable Windows Phone platform to create something the consumer doesn't have already, while providing the enterprise with an "Apple equivalent" simply because businesses are "still wary" about Android's shaky reputation from a security standpoint.
Cozza believes that Microsoft can save its whole reputation across the board by more closely identifying its ecosystem with its more popular facets.
"There is a lot of confusion within Microsoft because they have the Xbox, Skype and other services and products that feel like they're separate one from the other," said Cozza.
"They need to tie together all those services as more of a single entity, instead of many different planets of services."
Cozza believes the next year in particular - as Android continues to grow in strength, Apple shows little sign of releasing its steady grip on its share of the market, and other phone makers such as Huwaei, ZTE and even Canonical's Ubuntu Phone enter the fray anew - is a particularly important time for Microsoft to stake a claim.
"They need to bring together more what they have," she said.
"This next year is so fundamental for them to change this perception around. They have a strong gaming brand, and Skype, and I think we need to see more of a branding. Tablet users use them mainly for entertainment - and Microsoft needs to work on the brand to take that into account."
While Cozza states that, on a hardware level, Microsoft will continue to look at "partners they want to keep happy," she believes there is now "a certain understanding that the integration of hardware and software, and a better user experience, has become one of the key advantages."
Cozza says that Gartner did not change its immediate forecast for Windows after the announcement, but that a "more positive" outlook is potentially on the cards for Windows Phone "over the next three to four years".
The proviso, though, is that Microsoft "will let the Nokia people they keep give feedback on the device," leading to "better opportunities to better integrate the OS and the hardware".