Sharp End: Nokia and Microsoft tie-up and Orange benefits

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Dealer Jez Harris discusses how the Nokia and Microsoft partnership will benefit both companies long-term, as well as praising Orange’s efforts in the business market

Nokia and Microsoft tie up
The big news of the mobile industry over the last couple of weeks is the announcement by Nokia and Microsoft of their new joint venture.

Although Nokia is still the world’s biggest manufacturer of mobile phones, its market share has taken a hammering over the last 12 to 18 months, especially in the expanding smartphone market.

I’ve often commented how Nokia launched its latest and greatest smartphone with every top-end feature, only to be beset with problems and faults with the handsets at launch. It left a bitter taste in the mouths of dealers, having to pacify customers with very high expectations.

On paper nearly all Nokia’s big releases should have stormed the market as they had high specifications and attractive designs. More often than not, though, the software seemed to let down these launches in a big way. Nokia had a boring interface and on the high-end phones the software was prone to crashing. Software updates were common but did nothing to improve overall user experience.

The announcement by Nokia and Microsoft of their far-reaching partnership with Windows Phone 7 is huge for both companies. Nokia will have the best of both worlds: high-quality innovative phone hardware with a stable and increasingly popular Microsoft software platform to take full advantage of it. Microsoft will benefit from the fact that Windows Phone 7 market share will jump massively with the hundreds of millions of handsets that Nokia produces every year.

The partnership goes deeper than having Microsoft software on Nokia hardware. Nokia will adopt and integrate the Microsoft Bing search capabilities, while Microsoft will integrate Nokia Ovi maps. Nokia’s Ovi store will be assimilated by Microsoft Market Place.

The partnership should help increase the adoption of more smartphones and help the dealer community, if we can get behind and support the technologies and features that advanced phones bring. Customers need the expertise specialist dealers can bring to help them understand and take full advantage of the possibilities of these smartphones.

Whilst the Windows Phone 7 operating system is still in its infancy there is soon to be an update that will add missing features and improve performance.

It has been said that as part of this partnership Nokia has gained concessions allowing Nokia to make changes to the user experience of the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 operating system. This is major, as no other manufacturer has been allowed to make any of these changes. In particular HTC, which has done stellar work with its user interface the HTC Hub. One can only hope that Microsoft will relax its rules slightly for the other manufacturers to innovate with Windows Phone 7, too.

Orange doubling benefits
Orange seems to be really pushing for new business customers lately. As well as attractive commercials, it has this month increased the benefits a business customer receives on Business Solo tariffs.

As well as the choice of unlimited Orange to Orange or unlimited landline calls, a customer can choose two of the following benefits as opposed to the normal one: inclusive email, 1GB internet browsing, unlimited texts, 30 per cent discount on international calls, or 10 per cent discount on roaming calls. These benefits can be changed on a monthly basis, too.

The offer is available on 24-month and 36-month contracts and applies to upgrades as well as new connections.

Orange/T-Mobile advertising
The Everything Everywhere partnership is moving fast, with the networks embarking on a joint advertising programme, and enjoying the benefits of increased network coverage for Orange and T-Mobile customers.

In my local area it seems every available billboard is taken by Orange or T-Mobile, so heaven only knows how much these guys are spending on advertising. The ads can only benefit dealers that sell either Orange or T-Mobile or both, as it will highlight to potential or existing customers the benefits the combined networks will bring.

In-life handset registrations
In yet another move that can only help the dealer channel look after its Orange customers, Orange announced that dealers can now process ‘in-life handset registrations’. How often have you had a customer that wanted to change their handset but was still in contract and not eligible for upgrade? Your customer knows that they have to pay for the upgrade and the only thing you could do was sell them a SIM-free phone or prepay and get them to use their SIM card in this new phone.

The problem was, customers were no longer covered under Orange Care and customers who purchased, say, a BlackBerry in this way could not take full benefit as Orange has them down as using a different phone.

Orange will now allow dealers to sell any Orange Pay Monthly handset to customers and by following a specific procedure perform a SIM swap. Orange will transfer Orange Care (if they have it) to the new handset and for BlackBerry handsets Orange will fully support all BlackBerry services as well as doing the same for the iPhone 4. Obviously, if a customer goes for an iPhone they either have to pay for the increased Care charges or remove Care altogether.

No handset commission is paid on in-life handset registrations so dealers have to charge customers accordingly, but at least we can perform these sales with official sanctioning and support from the network. Things finally seem to be moving in the right direction!

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