Nokia Ovi Mail Begins Yahoo Migration (But Why?)

Nokia (s nok) today announced the beginning of an effort to move Ovi Mail accounts over to Yahoo mail, a deal that was initially announced last May. Existing Ovi Mail users will have 90 days from today to accept the new terms of service and migrate their mail and contacts over to Yahoo’s platform. The platform change will bring chat as well as access to other Yahoo (s yhoo) services to the more than 9 million Ovi Mail accounts Nokia claimed at the time of the partnership announcement last year. But that was before Nokia decided to bet on Microsoft (s msft) for its mobile future.

I don’t know the exact terms of the agreement between Nokia and Yahoo, but if there was a clause that allowed Nokia out of the deal, it should have executed it. The company is staking its mobile future on Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and yet, it’s now continuing along the path it made with Yahoo. Microsoft handsets certainly support Yahoo mail, but the devices require a Windows Live account; the entry point to mail and many of Microsoft’s other services. Users can certainly have accounts with both Windows Live and Yahoo on future Nokia handsets, of course. But wouldn’t the value-add both for Microsoft and Nokia (not to mention their mobile handset customers) be improved if Nokia migrated Ovi Mail to Windows Live Hotmail?

The other aspect here is one I’ve mentioned before: Nokia often has great strategies, but fails to execute them in a timely fashion. By the time a plan is actually implemented, the market has shifted and the plan needs revision. In this case, the nearly 11 months between the announcement of Ovi Mail moving to Yahoo may be influenced as much by Yahoo as it is by Nokia. The fact remains however, that the mobile market is moving too fast for some companies to keep up. Nokia’s entire mobile strategy has undergone a seismic shift since the Ovi mail deal was announced, yet Yahoo still benefits from both the mail accounts as well as gaining Nokia’s Navteq mapping services to power Yahoo navigation products. Ironically, Nokia’s Navteq mapping solutions will be used by Microsoft as well.

Were I at Microsoft, I’d be disappointed that this mail migration is continuing. Yes, Microsoft can still gain Windows Live users through Windows Phone 7 devices designed by Nokia, especially since the platform is built to leverage a Microsoft Windows Live account. Without sales numbers from Microsoft, we don’t know how the platform is doing, but my network operator sources and contacts in handset retailers indicate Windows Phone 7 sales are behind most other platforms. Migrating those Ovi Mail accounts to Windows Live could have offered a boost for current Nokia handset owners to upgrade to a Microsoft-powered Nokia phone, and many other Microsoft services, in the future.