Will the new Lumia 920 save Nokia?
The Finnish handset maker has a lot riding on the next-generation Windows Phone announced Wednesday -- and the jury is definitely out.
Techies were all ears Wednesday morning when Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer and Nokia (NOK) CEO Stephen Elop shared a stage to unveil the impressive Nokia Lumia 920, the first phone to run on Microsoft's dazzlingly new mobile platform, Windows Phone 8.
The handset boasts some serious hardware specs -- a high-definition 4.5-inch touchscreen on par with Apple's (AAPL) Retina display, Nokia's top-ranked PureView camera technology, and a snappy 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor. The phone gives the profits-challenged Finnish manufacturer its best shot in years to recapture market share gobbled up by key rivals HTC (HTCXF) and Samsung (SSNLF).
While the 920's predecessor, the Lumia 900, was "only a marginal success," says Roger Cheng at CNET, the new Lumia (and its budget version, the Lumia 820) will get a marketing boost as Microsoft pushes hard for Windows Phone 8 to be a true alternative to iOS and Android.
Although pricing and availability haven't yet been revealed, can the new Lumia help reverse Nokia's dwindling fortunes?
It has a lot of magic: Most new flagship phones are "95% boring stuff and 5% actually interesting stuff," says Dan Nosowitz at Popular Science. But the Lumia 920 has a lot of "unexpected" features to drive optimism, including a groundbreaking wireless charger onto which you can just plop the phone. The screen automatically adjusts for color and brightness, depending on sunlight. And its touchscreen even works when you're wearing gloves. Plus, the phone just "looks awesome."
But Nokia will be fighting an uphill battle: Nokia's "biggest ally in its turnaround -- Microsoft -- is also its potential Achilles' heel," says Michal Lev-Ram at CNN Money. At the moment, Nokia is the only company partnering with Windows, and "there's no question that Microsoft gives Nokia special treatment." But other phonemakers, including Samsung and HTC, are expected to launch their own Windows 8-powered phones in the coming months, and many more are expected to adopt Windows as a "safer" alternative to Android while the market "sorts out the impact of the Samsung ruling [in its lawsuit against Apple]." Nokia won't be alone.
Pricing will be crucial: Sure, the phone is different, Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, tells the New York Times. But Nokia needs to "show consumers that different is also better." The key will be in pricing, carrier partners, and distribution. Unfortunately, because they didn't disclose any of those details at the conference Wednesday, I'm not sure "whether they can gain market share and turn the tide in favor of the phone."
The phone itself isn't the issue: What Nokia has now is "a true competitor to the currently available iPhone and Android devices," says Kevin C. Tofel at GigaOm. Beyond the "fantastic"-looking phones, the key unanswered question is this: "What did [Nokia] announce [Wednesday] that will get consumers to switch from an iPhone or Android device?" The company desperately needs a "compelling answer to that question." And now it all comes down to marketing, sales figures, app selection, and carrier support. Otherwise, "I suspect Lumia sales will come from those already using an older Lumia and that won't generate the growth that Nokia needs to sustain a turnaround."
(Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)
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