Paul Withers thinks Nokia sent out all the right vibes with the launch of its Lumia handsets at Nokia World, but the biggest problem lies in persuading users on rival platforms to switch to Windows Phone
When the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft was announced last February, many industry experts emphasised Nokia would have to come up with a convincing new launch before December 31 to retain what credibility it had not lost in the smartphone space.
As we know, Nokia has launched two products – the Lumia 800 and 710 – and it must be commended for that. The Lumia 800 is the only one launching in the UK market for now, but engineering two handsets from scratch in nine months is an impressive achievement.
Nokia is suggesting the devices are “Easier, Faster and Funner”. Which is, funnily enough, what I found when I played with a Lumia 800. It is slick, pleasing on the eye and easy to use.
Shrewd launch strategy
The move to Windows Phone was seen as a risk. Samsung, HTC and LG have all released handsets using the platform. Just how successful they have been is debatable. How would Nokia differentiate itself? It has done so with a focus on navigation with Nokia Maps, audio with Nokia Music and sports with the partnership it has struck with ESPN.
The Lumia 800’s pricing in the UK is canny. It doesn’t go head-to-head with the iPhone or Galaxy S II. It will be free on a £31-per-month contract when it goes on sale on November 16, and so cannot be classed as an iPhone or Galaxy S II ‘killer’.
Making only one of the two new products available in the UK is also clever. Nokia UK and Ireland general manager Conor Pierce said the company had learned from the problems of launching multiple handsets across too many markets at the same time.
Nokia has to hit the ground running with Windows Phone. It has to get this launch right. It doesn’t have anything to fall back on like other manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony-Ericsson (soon to be just Sony) and even LG. So it makes sense to invest all its efforts and focus in that one handset.
Despite the positive hype coming from Nokia World, Nokia still faces many struggles. It must convince customers to use the Windows Phone OS, which has failed to gain any significant traction in the mobile market to date. Recent figures from analyst Gartner indicate Android’s share almost trebled year-on-year to 43.4 per cent. Apple’s iOS platform increased to 18.1 per cent from 14.1 per cent a year earlier. Microsoft slipped from 4.9 per cent in Q2 2010 to just 1.6 per cent of the market in Q2 2011. Consumers still seem unconvinced by Windows Phone.
Nokia has a job to persuade Android, iPhone and, particularly in the B2B end, BlackBerry users to switch. It knows it must go big with a marketing campaign. Thus comes the highest spend ever and three times more than the N8.
Nokia must do everything to convince users that the Windows Phone platform is a viable option for them. A good proportion of the 3,000 people in attendance at Nokia World were satisfied.
Critical 12 months
The B2B channel presents an intriguing opportunity for Nokia. BlackBerry has long been seen as king in this segment. But the recent three- to four-day service outages have dented user confidence, no question.
Nokia holds a trump card in Microsoft. If Nokia can convince these users that their desktop experience will be mirrored on their Nokia Windows Phone 7 smartphone, if not better, it could be on to a winner.
The next 12 months are critical for Nokia. Rivals will continue to innovate. It has to match, if not better, them. Pierce said Nokia would be in a much healthier position this time next year. The success of these two Lumia handsets will go a long way to deciding that fate.