Why Windows 8 won't save Nokia

The launch of the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 hasn't gone to script for Nokia and while both phones boast impressive features the Finnish handset maker's decision to bet the farm on Windows 8 may not pay off.

Nokia has finally unveiled its first Windows 8 phones and with the market keen to see if the latest range of Lumias- the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 – have what it takes to reverse the flagging fortunes of the Finnish handset manufacturer, it’s fair to say that there would have been a palpable nervousness in the Nokia camp. A nervousness no doubt shared by its partner Microsoft. So did Nokia and Microsoft manage to hit the target?

The high end, the Lumia 920 and the budget Lumia 820 are attractive phones and the 920 brings impressive specs that allow it to compete with the Samsung Galaxy SIII and possibly with the upcoming iPhone5. The flagship Lumia920 sports a 4.5 inch PureMotion HD display, a top of the line dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage and 8.7 Megapixel PureView camera, NFC and wireless charging.

As Informa Telecoms & Media’s principal analyst David McQueen puts it, the 920 may look like its predecessor but it definitely takes the 9-series up a notch.

The PureView imaging technology has made the transition from its 808 Symbian device to appear on the WP platform for the first time in the 920. While the camera offering may be modest McQueen says that the perceived deficiencies have been remedied by improvements in image quality in low light and impressive optical image stabilisation (OIS).

Building in inductive technology into the handset for wireless charging may not be a new phenomenon in the mobile space but this could be a window of opportunity for Nokia to spread wings in the peripherals market.

Nokia is partnering with bean-bag company Fatboy on a wireless-charging “pillow” and McQueen suggests the use of wireless-charging along with, NFC, and Bluetooth in speaker systems, highlights Nokia’s ambitions in the peripherals market.

The Lumia 820 is a smaller, lower resolution, 4.3 inch screen with the same processor as the 920, a lower spec 8 Megapixel camera and wireless charging as an optional extra.

 Both phones feature offline maps and new camera features that offer augmented reality functionality to maps, search and integration with other apps. The wireless charging feature that is built into the phones brings a new standard for other manufacturers to match.

Both devices are due in market during the fourth quarter of 2012 but consumers aren’t exactly thrilled by Nokia’s decision to not release any pricing information. 

Nokia has sold seven million Lumia phones, four million of which were in the last quarter. Although nothing on the scale of Samsung or Apple, sales have picked up. The new range of Lumias are certainly very good to look at but Nokia’s stock fell 13 per cent overnight. So why are consumers not convinced?

 One reason for their reticence could be the fact that Nokia is yet to prove that betting the farm on Windows 8 is a good idea. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft employee has probably been blinded by vestigial loyalties to his former employer and the trouble is that Nokia and Microsoft don’t even have exclusivity here.

Nokia will be competing against other phone manufacturers, including Samsung which actually stole Nokia’s thunder by releasing the world’s first Windows Phone 8 smartphone – the ATIV S - in Berlin last week.Seen by some as a hedge against possible bans of their android phones, the move by Samsung into the Windows 8 market is not good news for Nokia.

 It may be all moot as Windows 8’s future is still uncertain. It really doesn’t matter if it is a good operating system and works well if the world’s imagination has been captured by Apple’s and Google’s platforms.

This goes especially for the application development market as well. It has always been a big ask for people to develop applications for both iOS and Android. There is no way that anyone other than the major software companies will then develop for a third platform, especially one with such a low starting market share.

As many Nokia shareholders have commented, Nokia really would have been better going with Google’s Android, but perhaps Nokia would have had to employ someone other than a former Microsoft employee to have taken that path.

David Glance is a Director at the Centre for Software Practice at The University of Western Australia

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