The moment of truth has come for Nokia: the company isexpected to launch its first phones based on Microsoft’s Windows PhoneOS Wednesday at Nokia World in London. CEO Stephen Elop will have toconvince consumers, operators, developers and retailers that theproducts can compete with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’sAndroid-based Galaxy family.
In the eight months since Nokia announced its decision to gowith Microsoft’s Windows Phone, Nokia has seen its smartphone marketshare erode while the sales of Windows Phone have remained low.
“Stephen Elop has made it very clear that Nokia World will be theunveiling of the first products, and it will set the tone for whatNokia hopes is the beginning of its recovery in the high-end smartphonemarket,” said Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.
Under Elop’s leadership, Nokia has already addressed some of thecompany’s problems in low-end mobile phones, according to CarolinaMilanesi, research vice president at Gartner. But Windows Phone is themost important part of Nokia’s new strategy.
“For me, Nokia World is about Nokia showing that it is on the rightpath. But I don’t expect that any product launched this week will be amagic cure,” said Milanesi.
Nokia’s first Windows Phone-based products are also very important for Microsoft and operators, accordingto Blaber.
“Operators desperately need a counter to Android. They need Nokia tocome back and be competitive. Given the fact Nokia hasn’t been its mostcompetitive in the last few months, [operators] have becomeincreasingly dependent on Android, and that has certainly not been totheir advantage,” said Blaber.
Nokia is also a big bet for Microsoft.
“It was a major coup for Microsoft to get Nokia onboard. Nokia’s brandmay have taken a hammering, and its market share has come under strainin a lot of markets globally. But you can’t dismiss the fact that Nokiastill has unsurpassed scale and a huge level of distribution across ahost of markets globally,” he said.
That makes Nokia the best vehicle to drive Windows Phone far and wide, andreally start ramping up sales volumes, according to Blaber.
“If Microsoft can get Nokia onboard, and start to grow the installedbase, then Windows Phone becomes more attractive for other licensees,as well,” said Blaber.
Sources with knowledge of the Wednesday launch say that Nokia isexpected to launch two phones, one high-end model and one mid-marketphone, which is what HTC has done with the Radar and the Titan. Thelatter comes with a 4.7-inch screen, but Nokia is apparently stickingwith smaller sizes on both models.
Back in June, a video surfaced in which Elop demonstrated a WindowsPhone-based smartphone code-named Sea Ray, which had an 8-megapixelcamera and screen protected by Gorilla glass.
Elop also said that the industrial design of the MeeGo-based N9 wouldlive on, and that Nokia was working on other Windows-based phones.
Subsequent leaks and rumors have hinted at a number of differentproduct names, including Sun and Nokia 800, and specificationsincluding 3.7-inch screens.
Nokia has said its Windows-based smartphones will stand out from otherproducts based on Microsoft’s OS, as well as Apple’s iPhone and devices basedon Android. But the company hasn’t had much time to work on how it willdo that.
“I don’t expect much differentiation on the look and feel … but wewill probably hear something about maps because that is probably thebiggest asset Nokia has compared to the other licensees,” saidMilanesi, who thinks that Nokia will have more to say on what will setits products apart by the time of the MobileWorld Congress in Barcelona in February.
Pricing is also important, and it shouldn’t be higher than