Finnish telecoms firm launches first handsets to run on Microsoft’s Windows Phone system, the Lumia 800 and 710
With Apple and Google’s Android now dominating the smartphone market, the world’s largest phone maker is pinning its hopes of a business turnaround on the success of two models unveiled by chief executive Stephen Elop at the annual Nokia World event in London.
The first Nokia handsets to run on Microsoft’s Windows Phone interface, the Lumia 800, priced €420 (£365), and the Lumia 710, at €270, are aimed squarely at the mid-market, which is dominated by the Android operating system.
The phones were produced in a frantic eight-month period after Elop decided to abandon the “burning platform” of Nokia’s own operating software in favour of Windows Phone.
The Lumia phones run on its latest iteration, 7.5 Mango, which has had a limited distribution so far on handsets by HTC, LG and Samsung. In competition with Google’s free Android software, Microsoft has struggled to get Windows Phone onto a wide range of handsets, with just 2% market share in mid-2011, according to analyst IDC.
Microsoft will be hoping that Lumia, which Elop described provocatively as “the first real Windows phone made by anyone”, will deliver its software to a much wider audience. With sales of PCs declining in favour of mobile connected devices, Microsoft’s influence over consumer technology will fade unless it can make its presence felt on smartphones and tablets.
The Lumia 800 will be released in November in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, with customers able to pre-order immediately from nokia.com, and 31 networks and independent retailers committed to marketing the product. Its case is a slimmer version of the colourful N9 released by Nokia earlier this year.
Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan will get the handset before the end of the year, with further markets early in 2012. The United States is not on the list, because Nokia has no Lumia models yet that will work on 4G superfast mobile internet, which is already in use in across the Atlantic.
The cheaper Lumia 710, which echoes the iPhone with its curved edges and white or black casing, will be available first in Russia and the far east, before heading west in 2012.
Proclaiming a “new dawn” for Nokia, Elop said: “Eight months ago, we shared our new strategy and today we are demonstrating clear progress of this strategy in action.” He added: “We’re driving innovation throughout our entire portfolio.”
Elop is keeping one eye firmly on developing markets, unveiling the “Asha” handsets named after the Hindi word for hope, aimed at the “next 1 billion” users in those parts of the world where most people’s first experience of the internet will be via a mobile phone.
Having decided not to adopt Android as an operating system, Nokia has seemed frozen in the headlights of its progress. Since the beginning of 2010, the Finnish firm’s market capitalisation has halved from $52bn to $25bn, and over the same period its share of the smartphone market has declined from 39% to 16%. Revenues have slumped, and operating profits of over €1bn for its phones division were as low as €132m in September.
A former Nokia executive, Anssi Vanjoki, once said that by adopting Android, rivals like HTC were just like Finnish boys who “pee in their pants” in winter for temporary warmth.
That decision allowed rivals HTC and Samsung to race ahead, but some experts believe that Windows Phone Mango is distinctive enough to have been worth waiting for. Its interface has been welcomed as an improvement on the design of Apple and Android. Benedict Evans at Enders Analysis said: “Next year, Nokia and Apple will be the only people selling smartphones that aren’t generic slabs of black plastic.”