Microsoft's latest mobile endeavor, Windows Phone, was introduced a little over a year ago to a mostly uninterested audience. Despite some decent hardware and strong first version software, Windows Phone has yet to garner a major following; after a year on the market, it has only managed to collect one percent of the US smartphone market share. A lot of the disinterest can be blamed on horrible timing – it was released after the iPhone 4 had launched and just before some major Android announcements and launches.
But that's not enough to make Microsoft throw in the towel. Back in February, Microsoft made a large gamble by getting in bed with one of the largest handset manufacturers in the world. A deal like that, however, doesn't come cheap. Microsoft will be paying Nokia one billion dollars over the next five years to use Windows Phone on its hardware – quite the opposite of how Microsoft usually does business. A deal like this, though, could be the difference between the life and death of an already stale platform.
As I've stated time and time again, the biggest hurdle for Microsoft thus far has been differentiation. There is nothing about Windows Phone that makes me want to leave behind my investments (app purchases, phones, etc.) in platforms such as Android or iOS for something entirely new. The hardware falls in line with Android phones from last year and there is nothing particularly enticing about the software, unless you're a fan of the Metro UI, which I am admittedly not.
The recent Mango update did bring some much-needed changes to the software side of things and certainly shows promise for months and years to come. But the hardware still needs a serious leg-up to steal any attention from other platforms. This is where Nokia enters the picture.
We've been waiting patiently since February for anything interesting and Windows Phone-related to come from Nokia. There have been a few renders slip through the cracks and Stephen Elop, Nokia's relatively fresh CEO, unexpectedly gave us a quick tour of the first Nokia-made Windows Phone, the Lumia 800. But since June, news from the two firms' partnership has been rather uneventful.
That changed this morning with a few more leaks that revealed two more Nokia-made Windows Phone handsets in detail: the Lumia 710 (Sabre) and Nokia 900. Touting features like a 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display, 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss lenses, 1.4GHz processors and unibody design, the trio of devices definitely seem like they could easily bring a little more hype to the Windows Phone camp.
The Nokia World keynote is just over eight hours away and I'm definitely ready to see some of these new Windows Phones in action. That said, I fear that Windows Phone may still be suffering from a horrible case of bad timing. I was originally excited when I heard of the Nokia partnership – it meant that we may finally be officially blessed with Nokia's topnotch hardware here in the States. But that was eight months ago and a lot has happened since then, most notably iOS 5, the iPhone 4S and the Ice Cream Sandwich announcement. I'm still looking forward to the Nokia event tomorrow morning (bright and early at 4 AM Eastern), but most of the hype and excitement has dwindled down. It has for me, at least.
Eight months is a lot of latency and timing is everything in this market. Android has shown up with some pretty exciting changes and Apple just ticked some more sales records on the tally. While tomorrow's keynote may be big news for the Windows Phone camp, I'm afraid it won't be enough to counter the likes and recent momentum of Android or iOS. Here's to hoping Microsoft and Nokia have a big curve ball to pitch to us tomorrow. ... They'll need to catch us on our heels.
So, who's going to be up with me at 4 AM and tuning in to the Nokia World keynote? Are you still as excited about Nokia-made Windows Phones as you were a few months ago? Or have other mobile platforms' improvements stolen your attention?
Image via The Next Web