Cutting Room: the early signs from Nokia are encouraging

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The Lumia 800 has been well received, and making it available to dealers early has improved relations between the two parties. However, as Paul Withers explains, it’s imperative Nokia maintains this momentum and commitment for the next few years

We waited nine months for the launch of the first Nokia handset to run off the Windows Phone operating system, an event that would signal either Nokia’s revival or its likely demise in its current form. So far the signs are encouraging – Nokia appears to have a revitalised attitude and a fresh approach.

The first step to realising you are in a hole is to stop digging.Nokia’s recently appointed UK and Ireland general manager Conor Pierce (pictured) did much to stop the rot at Nokia World on October 26. And he reiterated the positive messages to distributors and dealers on November 23 at its partner event when he acknowledged that partners have been unwitting victims of Nokia’s lack of OS strategy in the past.

Nokia UK and Ireland head of customer marketing Chris Carmichael admitted Nokia had lost share in the youth market and that handsets post-N95 in 2007 have been bland and unappealing. The new investment in marketing is triple that spent for the previous biggest launch, the N8, and is key in regaining the lost youth sector, showcasing a modern and innovative device and operating system.

Carmichael acknowledged that the Lumia 800 campaign had to be right and that if it failed then the game could be up. So far the signs are good. The Lumia 800 became the company’s bestselling handset in its first week on sale in the UK.

Fortunately, on a technical level the Lumia 800 ticks the boxes. Tech journalists love it (see page 38). The device is slick and the new Mango version of Windows Phone is a huge improvement on previous Windows Mobile platforms.

Perhaps the most important area for Nokia to rectify was its approach to the dealer channel. Dealers are key to Nokia’s success. Not only do they sell the kit, they also recommend them. But dealers had lost faith in what Nokia was producing.

Nokia has gone all out to rectify this. So when Pierce announced the Lumia 800 would be made available to dealers through Micro-P and Ingram Micro at Nokia’s partner event last week, a round of applause erupted from the 50 dealers in attendance.

Dealers have long been frustrated with Apple not releasing the iPhone to them. So the availability of the Lumia  puts Nokia one up on Apple, in the indirect channel at least.

Nokia has also created an online Network Partner portal with product set-up guides and training and marketing material to forge closer ties with dealers. Such initiatives will convince them that Nokia is again serious.

All this is to be welcomed. But we need to sound a note of caution. At the end of October, Android held 46 per cent of the UK market while Apple accounted for 27.8 per cent. The Windows Phone 7 OS held just one per cent of the market. That’s a massive gap to close.

Nokia’s resurgence will not happen overnight. The turnaround could take a few years. During this time Nokia will have to maintain the intensity of its recent marketing and dealer support. The danger time is not now, but whether the commitment to new devices and dealer support will slacken in the months ahead.

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