Windows Phone investigate

Key factor for Nokia and Windows Phone 7: Android angst

While the first round of Nokia Lumia handsets running Windows Phone 7 looks solid, their fate will likely rest in the hands of Android.

Nokia officially unveiled its first Windows Phone devices on Wednesday at Nokia World in London. The "Lumia" handsets look just as you'd expect from the company that was formerly the world's top phone maker -- thin, balanced, and elegant -- but there are more questions than ever about whether they will make a dent in the smartphone market. The key to Nokia's success will likely have more to do with Android than Windows Phone 7.

Photo credit: Nokia

"Today is just the beginning of our new adventure,” Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said. “We will upgrade an ordinary moment into an exciting one."

Elop, a former Microsoft executive, has wagered Nokia's entire turnaround on the company's switch to exclusively run its phones on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform. While Elop and Nokia reportedly got $1 billion from Microsoft in the deal, the Windows Phone platform looked a little better in the spring than it does now.

Consumers haven't responded to Windows Phone 7. Wireless carriers aren't pushing it. Hardware makers aren't using it to build their top devices. Even Steve Ballmer admitted last month that WP7 sales have been disappointing. Meanwhile, Nokia has been in a free-fall since it announced in February that it was ending its Symbian devices and switching to WP7. The company's channel partners rebelled against the WP7 move and some of them eventually decided to boycott Nokia devices altogether.

Can Nokia win back the loyalty of its retail partners? Will the Nokia-Microsoft pair-up combined with the Mango 7.5 update give Windows Phone 7 the shot in the arm that it needs?

Gartner and IDC have already predicted that the Nokia adoption will give Windows Phone 7 a 20% share of the smartphone market by 2015. However, that was before Nokia's retail partners started defecting and WP7 sales bombed.

As I've said before, Nokia makes great hardware and Windows Phone 7 has plenty of promise. The Lumia smartphones look like a solid start for the partnership. And, the wireless carriers are now looking for a third player to keep Android and Apple from controlling all of their device options.

But, even with all of that in their favor, Nokia is in for an uphill battle trying to win overs consumers and professionals to their Windows Phone devices. Android is already capturing both the technophile/tinkerer crowd that is Microsoft's bread-and-butter and the low-end feature phone converts that are Nokia's sweet spot. And, Nokia can pretty much write off the business executives and creative types, since iPhone already has most of them locked up.

Sure, there are going to be a lot more people entering the smartphone market in the years ahead, but with Android offering a ton of devices at different price points and on virtually every carrier and Apple now offering the free iPhone 3GS and the $99 iPhone 4, it's tough to see WP7 winning over many customers in those battles.

The only thing that could change that is if Android angst starts to spread. Many Android users have become frustrated with the inconsistent user experience, battery life issues, and lack of software updates from carriers and phone makers. The frustration doesn't appear to have resulted in large numbers of users leaving the platform yet, but if Google and its Android partners don't get it together then it could create an opening for Nokia and Windows Phone 7.

The other factor to watch is Google's acquisition of Motorola. If Google begins favoring and promoting its own Motorola-made devices as the cream of the Android crop then it could push HTC and Samsung to use Windows Phone 7 to build and market their top devices.

Sanity check

For Nokia and Windows Phone 7 to make a major impact on the smartphone market, it's probably going to require an Android stumble. We'll have to see how many of the first-generation Android users who are about to come off their first contract are annoyed enough to switch to another platform, and if they are, will they pick Windows Phone 7?

There could have been an enterprise opportunity as well, with RIM now losing enterprise confidence and WP7 offering nice Microsoft Office and SharePoint integration, but Microsoft has almost exclusively pointed WP7 toward consumers, so only the most loyal Microsoft shops are going to get excited about enterprise deployments of Windows Phone devices.

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About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

7 comments
Gerbilferrit
Gerbilferrit

These new nokia phones are gorgeous and i would snap one immediatly if i weren't stuck in a contract for another 8 months. Android and iPhone features are being inspired by the Windows Phone OS so don't poo-poo it until you tried it, it certainly glides along at a fair pace rather elegantly at day to day use and as MS are so fond of saying it really does work with you rather against you. And i don't need stoopid little crappy apps to stay in touch on the major social networking sites/messaging systems. Oh and there were some awful comments from the interface designer of android's ice cream sandwich in the media not so long since regarding their competitors which just sounded like sour grapes to be honest. Ice Cream Sandwich is blatantly ripping off the live tiles idea but making it look like a dogs dinner. Android is theft as SJ was would bleat - and don't forget Windows Mobile did everything iphone/android ever did just had a crappy interface about it, so neither of the big two phone OSs today are as innovative as people may imagine, but alongside them WIndows Phone is taking late but bold steps in re-imagining the phone OS.

ddmcd
ddmcd

Is the phone any good?

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Nokia has never had a reputation for shoddy quality, so that factor has to be one of this phone's strong points. On the other hand, WP7 is dragging that ball-and-chain of a WinMob reputation by the ankle which ensures this product is going to get a relatively slow start. If WP7 is as good as all the proponents claim, then it shouldn't take too long to prove itself.

Gerbilferrit
Gerbilferrit

Given Nokia don't make shoddy build quality phones generally and they've got Windows Phone 7.5 it would have to be something spectacular to make them fail!

DesertJim
DesertJim

Windows 7.5. Disaffected RIM users maybe, who are just being offered touch screen, but I doubt android users would take the Win 7 Route, would go for what they thought they were getting in the first place which was an iOS platform...

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... iOS made smartphones easy to use when most of what was available was complex and buried beneath layers of menus. iOS's greatest problem was its high price, which is still out of the reach of the vast majority of people if you go for the latest model. Android's greatest advantage was that it offered the 'look' of iOS at a much lower price. They very well knew they weren't buying Apple, but they figured if it looked the same, it'd work the same and be 'just as good'. Android itself has proven them wrong. Sure, it works, but the return rates prove that it's not 'just as good'.

radleym
radleym

... that people who buy Android think they're buying Apple? Reality check, dude.