Is Nokia's Windows Phone Plan Doomed to Failure

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2012-06-24 Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: Nokia, while struggling to rebuild its brand, keeps managing to dissuade consumers from buying its phone. Early advocates of the brand are feeling baffled by the recent Windows Phone 8 announcement.

Nokia and Microsoft, since announcing their partnership in February 2011, have been working to convince consumers and professionals that with their smartphone collaboration they€™re swinging for the highest fence. The partners maintain that these are phones of the most notable craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology€”phones that will compete against the Apple iPhone and high-end Android devices and re-establish Nokia as the world€™s top-selling phone maker.

It shocked many when at the Microsoft Windows Phone Summit event in San Francisco June 20, the pair, after introducing the very lovely and feature-rich Windows Phone 8 operating system and sharing that a software development kit (SDK) will arrive later this summer, confirmed that current smartphones running Windows Phone 7.5, such as the Lumia 900€”phones it seemed that sweat and tears had been shed to sell€”would not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.

The 7.5 handsets will instead receive an update to 7.8, which includes the Windows Phone 8 start screen€”which has been improved with, among other things, the ability to include more colors and dictate which of four size options a user would like each app tile to be€”and a few new apps.

€œWindows Phone 8 is a generation shift in technology, which means that it will not run on existing hardware,€ Microsoft€™s Joe Belfiore explained in a June 20 blog post. €œBut we care deeply about our existing customers and want to keep their phones fresh, so we€™re providing the new start screen in this new update.€

Tech writer Stephen Robinson responded as surely Microsoft and Nokia anticipated some people would. He Tweeted, €œMicrosoft blew any chance it had for me to support WP. Back to iPhone full time. Lumia few months old, won€™t get latest update. Insane.€

Technology Business Research Senior Analyst Ken Hyers, relating to the sentiment, says he€™s baffled how Nokia keeps telling potential customers it€™s phasing out its devices, which, €œsurprise, surprise,€ stops people from buying them.

€œI just don€™t understand why Nokia [has] been so inept in how it has handled its product road map. It publicly abandoned Symbian long before it had Windows Phone products, and now it€™s telling the world that its current Lumia phones have a very limited shelf-life, measured in months,€ Hyers told eWEEK.

Hyers added, €œI think we can expect a very bad summer for Nokia as consumers turn their backs on the company.€

Neil Mawston, a Strategy Analytics analyst in the United Kingdom, views the move as simply a necessary one for the pair€™s long-term goals.

€œIf the new Windows Phone 8 product is strong enough, any complaints about backward-incompatibility with Windows Phone 7 will quickly be forgotten,€ said Mawston. €œWe think the benefits of upgrading old phones to new operating systems are sometimes overstated by some smartphone fans. Better operating systems often require better hardware, and running a new OS on aging hardware can cause slower or buggier operations, and this is not an optimal user-experience.€ 

Some might ask just how far ahead Nokia has the luxury of looking. Just days ago, Nokia announced it plans to lay off another 10,000 workers, in addition to a previously announced 20,000, and to cut $2 billion in spending in other areas by the end of 2013. During its first quarter of 2012, it announced operating losses of nearly $2 billion.

While some developers at the Windows event were impressed€”Gregory Gibbons, vice president of business development at The Mobile Lab, told eWEEK he has confidence that €œsome of these advancements and the collaboration with Microsoft€ will carry Nokia€”others are still skeptical.

Hyers€™ colleague, analyst Jack Narcotta, Tweeted June 21, €œNokia thinks it€™s taking batting practice when it€™s really the bottom of the 9th and they€™re two strikes down.€                                                      

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.  

Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.

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