“People like Nokia,” he said. “We’re reliable. We’re durable.”
“We comb our hair each morning. We pick you up from school. We would always send you a birthday card.”
“But it’s not enough.”
In order to get where it needs to be, Elop said that Nokia needs to be adored. It needs to be exciting. That’s why the company unveiled a slate of new devices, spearheaded by the Lumia 800 and 710 — a pair of shiny Windows phones that it hopes can be enough to turn the company’s flagging fortunes around.
Elop called Lumia “the first real Windows Phone”, presumably a slap at HTC, and then handed over to Kevin Shields — a former Windows Phone engineering executive hired by Nokia to help it get shipped — who ran through the product.
By and large, the announcements seemed to be roughly in line with what was expected. And visually it wasn’t a shock either: the Lumia 800 seems pretty close — almost identical — to the previously seen N9, which our own Kevin Tofel said is “among the nicest and well-designed smartphone hardware I’ve ever used”. The specs, too, are familiar: the Lumia 800 has an 3.7 inch AMOLED screen, 1.4 GHz processor, Carl Zeiss lens camera, 16GB memory and 25GB free cloud storage.
Under the hood, the handsets run Windows Phone Mango and from the outside appear smartly done and really usable. On top of what you already get with Mango, the devices come with added extras such as satnav; music and radio player; and a partnership with ESPN to deliver sports content.
More to the point though, it’s coming soon — perhaps very soon, depending on where you live. The Lumia 800 is being made available in the main European markets first, rolling out across Germany, France, the U.K., Spain, Italy and the Netherlands in November. Russia, India and (along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan) will see the Lumia 800 before the end of the year. North America, on the other hand, won’t get it until early 2012, shortly followed by mainland China.
Pricewise? Well, on launch, an unsubsidized Lumia 800 will cost €420; the 710 is priced at €270.
Make no bones about it, this was a big deal for Nokia. You could almost hear the tension, the eagerness that sometimes slipped toward hysteria. And for good reason, the presentation was an attempt to make a big point: the future for Nokia has arrived. The N9, based on MeeGo, was a place marker — a way of showing that Nokia can actually get products out — and the Lumia is where they’re going.
The biggest surprise for me, though, was the amount of emphasis put on another range of devices being launched today. Kevin had suggested Symbian would get sidelined entirely, but before the Lumia was shown, Elop spent a long time pushing another line called Asha — featurephones that incorporate both a touchscreen and keyboard… and run
This is clearly an attempt to push from both ends of the market, and the company is trying to capitalize on its hard-fought reputation in fast-growing markets. But it’s also worth remembering that Nokia is far from unassailable in those countries — it’s under threat there, just like it is everywhere else.
Look at India, where revenues are flat and (perhaps more importantly) its share in the feature phone and smartphone market — precisely where Asha is targeted — has dropped from 49 percent in 2010 to 37.5 percent in the first half of 2011.
Whether or not the burning platform is on fire any more remains to be answered. But even if the flames have been quenched, there’s still been a vast amount of damage done. Can Asha turn that around? Can Lumia?