Nokia's first Windows Phone 7 handset: Is it enough?

 

Rory Cellan-Jones looks at Nokia's new Lumia 800 smartphone

Imagine this. You're an outsider from another continent, brought in to try to pull what was Europe's leading technology business out of a death spiral.

Your first move is to tell your staff that the software on which the company's reputation was built is history and their future depends on working with what was once a deadly rival. And today you have to unveil the first fruits of that partnership.

No pressure then for Stephen Elop as he opened the Nokia World conference with a keynote which featured his company's first two Windows Phone 7 handsets.

He's the Canadian who sent that famous "burning platform" memo to staff earlier this year, shortly before unveiling a deal to use Microsoft's latest mobile operating system in place of Symbian.

This morning he proudly showed off the Nokia Lumia 800, designed to be the flagship of a fleet of smartphones combining Nokia's hardware expertise with Microsoft's likeable if little-known Windows Phone 7 software.

He extolled its design elegance - "just beautiful" - but went on to make a big claim which Microsoft's other partners might find a touch arrogant:

"Lumia is the first real Windows Phone."

Crowded space

What then will differentiate Nokia Windows phones from HTC or Samsung handsets with the same operating system? Nokia will say its hardware has always led the way, but it is also packaging the phones with services to try to make them stand out.

Nokia's mapping software will power Drive, a navigation system which users get for nothing.

Nokia boss tells me Nokia will have a 'new dawn'

They will also be able to listen to millions of tracks on their phones via Nokia Music. No, a PR executive told me, it's nothing like "Comes With Music" the firm's last ill-fated venture into this industry - that was about downloads, this is about streaming. And there will be football via an ESPN sports app.

With rather less fanfare, Nokia unveiled a second Windows Phone handset today, but this cheaper device was a signal that it wants to compete right across the fast-growing smartphone market.

But they will be entering a market now crowded with very clever phones - whether you favour Android, Apple or Blackberry, you are now spoiled for choice.

Nokia and Microsoft know they will have to work very hard to get consumers to pay attention, so prepare to be be subjected to one of the biggest single marketing campaigns the mobile industry has ever seen.

Network operators will be playing their part, keen to make sure there is more competition in the market to drive down the price of the hardware.

So Nokia has put its entire future in the hands of Microsoft...or has it? What surprised me about this morning's keynote was that Mr Elop also unveiled four devices that had nothing to do with Windows, phones aimed at the developing world.

Nokia points out that it's been selling huge numbers of these phones - a million a day - and it was only this part of the business which made its most recent financial results look halfway respectable. The message was that the next billion internet users would be connected by Nokia, and the new Asha range of almost-smart phones would help make that happen.

And there was even some news about Symbian, with a public transport service helping you get across more than 400 cities worldwide, and an augmented reality app. Symbian, it seems, is not dead, just resting.

So Mr Elop is hedging his bets. He hopes and believes that the new Windows phones will restore Nokia to its rightful position as a leader in the lucrative smartphone market.

But if a year from now it's still failing to make headway in the race with Android and Apple, expect to hear plenty more about the huge opportunities offered by the developing world.

The question is will Indian and Chinese consumers continue to want Nokia phones if they are shunned by American and European buyers?

 
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1.

    Unfortunately it seems that Nokia are about 2 years too late into the market. Can't see them catching up unfortunately in the smart phone sector. I think they should focus on lower end devices.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 2.

    This article sells Nokia short.Nokia's real strength is its massive manufacturing capability, supply chains and ability to produce capable and appealing phones that appeal at very low costs and this is important in the global market. On smartphones, most operators I have met do think Phone 7 is good so it seems the phone is the weak link. In fact I think most want it to suceed. I am independent..

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 3.

    Nokia have positioned themselves well as the 'Newcastle United' of Mobile Phones,
    Not in the Champions League with the big money, but loved by millions as the best of the rest.
    At a low price point, free on any contract, these should sell well. Then Nokia music etc will be everywhere.

    cont....

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 4.

    Cont from 3...
    Unfortunatly, like Newcastle, no one expects them to maintain their current form and they will drop like a stone when Chelsea roll out more Ice Cream Sandwiches.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 5.

    As one who's spent much of the last 18 months developing apps for both Android and iOS, I'm convinced there's a definite space in the market for something to fit between the chaotic, bipoal Android, and the overpriced, horrifically tied-down iOS devices. Whether MS and Nokia can fill that gap we're yet to see, but I for one hope they can pull it off as the current crop just don't cut it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    Ah great - another Windows phone with capacitive control buttons at the bottom that can be accidentally activated at any time and thus ruining your Windows Phone 7 experience.

    Hand over a Windows Phone to a friend to show them something interesting and, boom, suddenly they are looking at Bing Search.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 7.

    I'm currently in the market for a new phone. My natural choice at the moment would be Android because of it's power and flexibility. But I have to say that I will be waiting to see the reviews for these phones. Nokia do make the best handsets, and WP7 has the potential to be very good.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    A lot of people think Android is the best thing since sliced bread. They've obviously never heard of the little known O/S called Maemo 5, which Ice-Cream Sandwich has only just managed to mimick some features.

    I'm afraid Nokia threw away their best chance when they dropped Maemo 5 in favour of their half cut version of MeeGo, which didn't look like it would see the light of day at some point.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 9.

    I think the term "Nokia" is now synonymous with their original "brick" (now called retro or dumb) phones. I agree with a number of others that this too little too late. Jumping in bed with Microsoft (a manufacturer unproven at the mobile level) seems confirm a sense of desperation.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 10.

    We are tired of stats and who's in the lead of sales targets. This does not make good reporting all the time. Your reports are getting boring and you are a tech reporter not an economic business journalist...so please rory...do the job you are being paid to do...report on technology changes, advances and differentiation!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 11.

    I count myself among those who have looked on at the smartphone thing from the sidelines, aware that my basic mobile does the job of calling and texting that I need, aware that smartphones do all that other stuff that I want (but don't really need, yet) and just waiting for a well thought through (move over Android) , innovative and attractively price (move over iPhone) solution. Welcome Nokia WP7

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    Removing any bias, WP7 is going to begin steadily eating into Android, and probably iOS as well. The reviews are all the proof the world needs to believe that Windows Phone 7 as an operating system is up there with iOS and ahead of Android. It is just the marketing and actual phone designs holding it back. Once they start selling, the momentum will take it to 2nd place.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 13.

    I used to have an iPhone, I upgraded to a Windows Phone. It's true that even iPhone users are envious when they see how fast, fluid and modern the Windows Phone experience is. I have observed this many times over the last year. The Windows Phone is in my experience the best mobile OS out there. The new Nokia Windwos Phones make them even more desirable, cool and trendy.

    Good luck Nokia!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    "I'm convinced there's a definite space in the market for something to fit between the chaotic, bipoal Android, and the overpriced, horrifically tied-down iOS devices"

    What, like MeeGo?

    Signed, proud, but somewhat frustrated N900 owner.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    For someone like me who is bored with the iPhone and its sterile confinement and doesn't like the ugly, unfinished feel of Android this looks like a great alternative.

    And it looks beautiful. That's always a bonus.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 16.

    I'm slightly puzzled over the view that Nokia don't make 'smart phones'. I've been using Nokia phones for nearly 10 years that had email, internet and apps. I have a Galaxy SII and a Nokia N8 now - the Galaxy is brighter and quicker - but the N8 takes better pictures/video, as free Satnav and has a more reliable email service. Why is there a perception that Nokia only make 'dumb' phones??

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 17.

    It's hysterical, the two dinosaurs of tech, getting into bed with each other? Micro$oft are dying and Nokia are already dead! Apple supporting fashion victims will fade away, leaving the superlative Android system with the market.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    I've got an N8.

    Can I have Windows on it, please?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    The high end one looks beautiful, something Apple would make. One problem though, smartphones' batteries barely last more than a day, why did Nokia make a cover over the charging port? Looks easy to break and cumbersome for an everyday activity. Apple has left the dock connector at the bottom and a whole industry of accessories and speaker docks was born. This nokia is very promising, not perfect.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 20.

    @17

    Pull the other one. Android? really?. Google is the one struggling. Substandard tablet OS, Substandard phone OS. substandard social network. It's a company that doesn't know what it's doing. It's trying everything and failing at most. Android is the next symbian. Nobody wants it. They are simply forced to by no alternative. It's an iOS Android market soon to be an iOS/WP7 market.

 

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