Since its induction in November last year, Windows Phone has yet to really capture any substantial attention in the mobile market. Whether it's due to the mediocre hardware, lingering memories of Windows Mobile, carrier rep biases or the rather bland look of Metro UI, stealing the attention of iOS and Android users here in the States has proven to be a difficult task for Microsoft. And it has only allowed them to leave a tiny footprint on marketshare breakdowns.
In hopes of changing that, Nokia and Microsoft announced a partnership back in February. Microsoft agreed to pay the the Finnish company one billion dollars over the course of five years so long as they produce Windows Phone handsets.
After eight months of waiting and wondering what might come of this partnership, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop took the stage in London at 9 AM London time (4 AM Eastern) and announced a handful of new devices: Nokia Lumia 710 and 800 and the Asha 200, 201, 300 and 303. (The Asha series is not Windows Phone and not intended for the US.)
Thanks to some leaks along the way, and a few more the morning before the keynote, we more or less knew what to expect hardware-wise. But what we didn't know is when these lustrous devices would actually hit the shelves here in the States. It's something we've been wondering all along as Nokia hasn't exactly had the best carrier relations Stateside for some time now due to disagreements on subsidizing. The partnership with Microsoft, however, seems to have mended any outlying issues.
So when will we see these new devices? France, UK, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan will all see the Lumia and Asha series sometime in November or December. They are expected to hit "a number of additional markets" – presumably China, USA and Canada – in 2012. Sorry folks, no Windows Phone devices by Nokia for the holidays, unfortunately. As a consolation prize, though, they will have both LTE and CDMA in tow whenever they do arrive.
There are a handful of reasons why Nokia might have decided to skip the end of 2011 for the US market, and for all we know it may have been out of their hands. They might be tied up, trying to work out the last few kinks in US carrier deals. Nonetheless, they are missing on a huge opportunity here. These sleek and sexy new phones will be missing in holiday marketing, sales guides and other promotional material, which could certainly curate a little mind share and help WinPho's current market share situation.
But in this case, it might not necessarily be a bad thing. As I stated last night, Windows Phone has a terrible case of bad timing. And Nokia isn't exactly helping by announcing their new line of phones between the launch of the iPhone 4S with iOS 5 and the Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich – major OS upgrades and fairly substantial hardware upgrades for two of the largest platforms around. With next to no mind share heading into the holiday season, what are the odds people will choose a Windows Phone over something they already know about? I'm sure some would; but the majority are going to stick to what they know.
I have a feeling this Nokia deal is bigger than the US, though – the keynote being in London and scheduled at 4 AM Eastern should be enough to testify to that. Sure, the US is a huge market for smartphones, but Microsoft entered the partnership knowing Nokia has lost almost all ground in the US. This partnership is about international market share. If they can push these phones internationally and turn profits, gain worldwide market share and establish more mind share around the globe, they can come back later and tackle the US market ... once they're more prepared. The US mobile market isn't going anywhere and they have next to nothing to lose at this point.
Not to mention, after the holidays, there is usually a dry spell. There is, without a doubt, going to be a slew of new devices announced at CES. But it will be months before they ever hit shelves. Those shiny new Nokia phones, however, will have just arrived as Android and iOS hype from software updates and new releases has died down. That seems like the perfect opportunity to launch a new phone, right?
It will be interesting to see how Nokia and Microsoft deal with this. We're almost certain that Nokia loyalists will help Windows Phone grow internationally – it's expected to grow to 12 percent in Europe by next year. But will international presence help their fight here in the US? It's tough to say, but I wouldn't count Windows Phone or Nokia out just yet.
What say you? Are you upset that Nokia has skipped the holiday season here in the States? Will you wait it out and pick up a Lumia 710 or 800 in 2012? Or is something a little closer to fruition looking more appetizing now?