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BW Businessworld

Nokia's Last Stand

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Things are about to change. That’s what the Nokia teaser had promised over the last few days. Things did change. A couple of days before the launch of the Nokia Lumia 920, several pictures were posted on Twitter by @evleaks. On September 5 at Centre 548 adjoining the Hudson River in New York, Nokia tried to get in some of the flavor usually associated with the launch of Apple products. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said the company’s strategy is to offer an alternative to the faceless ‘black and grey monobloc smartphones available’ in the market.
 
That was just the beginning. Soon after came the colour. Jo Harlow, Nokia’s head of mobile phone business displayed the canary yellow Lumia 920 saying: “This is the Lumia and it’s time to change.” The Lumia is available in canary yellow, red, black and white.
 

Steve Ballmer with Stephen Elop at the 920 launch in New York (AP)

The Lumia 920 is the result of an 18-month long partnership with Microsoft. While no prices were disclosed, the Lumia 920 will be available in select global markets next quarter, says Elop. “First, wejoined the Windows ecosystem to create a new smartphone experience. The Nokia Lumia 610 has allowed us to expand our presence in China, India, South America and Europe. As a result, the Windows Phone market share is rising.”
 
It is to this market that it has launched the 920 which has a 4.5 inch curved screen and sports an 8.7 megapixel camera with PureView imaging. It also has floating lens technology that helps take images that till now were only possible with an SLR camera. The navigation tools include Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive and Nokia Transport. It also has Nokia City Lens that allows the user to get information on city restaurants and facilities by simply pointing the camera at a city street. And, of course it has a super sensitive touch screen that can be operated even while wearing gloves, as displayed by Kevin Shields, senior vice president, Nokia Windows Program.
 
The focus on imaging is important. According to IDC, during 2012, the images taken on smartphones will overtake those taken on camera. It is estimated that daily 1.4 billion images are taken with mobile phones, of which 683 million are posted on social networking sites. This is the market that Nokia is looking to tap with the Lumia 920. Among the unique features included is a built in wireless charger that allows the user to charge the phone by placing it on a mat—the Fatboy. Says Ilari Nurmi, vicve president, product marketing, smart devices: “This could well be the way all phones are charged in the future.”
 
The success of the Lumia 920 and 820 is critical for Nokia. This could well be the last chance for Nokia to be in the race for the smartphone market. The recent court case between Apple and Samsung has provided it a small window to grab its share of the rising smartphone segment. The Euro 38.6 billion Nokia has seen revenues fall 8.9 per cent in 2011 from the Euro 42.4 billion in 2010, while recording a loss of Euro 1.3 billion in 2011.
 
The Lumia is equally important for Microsoft, which has seen increasing competition from Android and iOS. Speaking on the occasion, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that this will be the year for Windows — be it on the phone, tablet and the PC.
 
A lot is at stake for leadership in the smartphone market. Samsung has increased its lead over Apple,  according to Gartner. While Samsung has a whole range of smartphones based on android, it has also launched its Windows Phone 8 version recently in Berlin.
 
But, is Nokia looking to expand into the tablet space too?  "We have not announced any plans to introduce a tablet product on Windows or any other platform," Elop said at the event. "But what is quite clear is that the digital experience that people expect today is one that spans multiple different environments: the phone, the tablet, the PC...Certainly, with Nokia's strength in mobility, this is an area we're looking at very closely, and hope to be able to talk more broadly soon about what our perspective is on how to approach that opportunity. It's a real opportunity." ...
 
That’s a whole new space. Nokia has put its cards on the table, while the competition is getting ready to show their cards. Over the next few weeks there are launches of smart phones from HTC, Motorola and possibly Apple. That is when the true competition will emerge.  That could well decide the future of Nokia and to a large extent that of Microsoft.