The Lumia 900, Nokia’s current Windows Phone Flagship device came to the market with Nokia’s future riding on it and it is an impressive device. Reports from Amazon and AT&T suggest very strong sales and some versions like the Cyan (my favorite) being sold out. That is a strong start by any standards and it looks like this one has legs. However, the 900 is just the stopgap, the next version is expected to show Nokia’s strengths.
Lumia 900 Success
While there were some initial software hiccups during the launch of the Nokia Lumia 900, they have been cleared and those affected got a refund for the $100 they initially spent for the phone. Folks got the refund whether or not they reported the problem which a sharp contrast to the Antennagate response from Apple (they initially denied the problem, then said everyone had it (not true), and finally provided a cover for the phone -- likely not the one folks really wanted). Nokia corrected the problem and refunded the phone’s initial cost.
The phone has been wrapped with an advertising campaign using known B-list celebrities mocking the beta nature of competing phones. Granted, given the initial bug there was some irony in this approach, but it does address the fact that many of the Android phones tend to launch very raw and that problems with initial major refreshes of the iPhone line have had significant beta like issues. This campaign also dovetails somewhat with the earlier Windows Phone 7 campaign (Really?!?) that focused on folks spending too much time on their phones and not enough on life. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t have the patience to let this campaign run and this type of campaign has to run a long time before it truly resonates. Sometimes it amazes me how big companies can simply not get how marketing works.
So with the Lumia 900 they have an attractive phone, well thought through services, and one of the best funded ad campaigns in market outside of Apple (and currently Apple isn’t finding a major campaign). All of this together is making for a hit phone but I met with Nokia few days ago and it is clear that the best is yet to come.
Illuminating the Next Lumia
Nokia got special dispensation to change Windows Phone in ways no other vendor is currently allowed to do. The relationship between Nokia and Microsoft is unique in market. The 900 came too soon after the relationship was solidified to make it a true showcase for the power of the partnership. In effect, the Windows Phone Mango was largely done and the 900 was designed separately.
We already know the NFC enabled 610 is coming but that won’t be the big news. The big news is the first phone that has been ground up integrated like an iPhone or Blackberry is using then current Windows Phone operating system. This should provide a unique experience, one that is more seamless, has better battery life and something unique built in.
To work that extra feature will need to be compelling like Siri is on the iPhone or Halo is on the Xbox. On the short list of key features is universal media player/remote much like Aha Radio, Microsoft Sync, or Qualcomm’s Skifta product is but embracing a cross section of the different home entertainment systems, automakers (at least aftermarket), and some of the set top boxes. But it could be anything else that is truly compelling and unique, and with the next release, Nokia is capable of doing something amazing.
Wrapping Up: Betting On the Future
In the end, the Microsoft/Nokia partnership is a great experiment, most of my analyst peers seem pretty much convinced it won’t go anyplace given how often both Microsoft and Nokia have disappointed us in the past. There is that tendency for both companies to fall short of what is actually needed to be successful. However, the Lumia 900 is a damn good phone and given it doesn’t yet demonstrate the full potential of this partnership the 900 does give me hope that when we see the optimized version it will knock our socks off. We’ll see because both companies could use a huge success in this space. They could use one badly.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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