Many of the most vocal critics of Nokia’s decision to focus its smartphone strategy on Windows Phone – such as the obsessively biased tech blogger Eldar Murtazin, or the Nokia shareholders who recently launched a class action lawsuit against the company’s management – point to the fairly pitiful sales figures for the Lumia handsets currently on the market as definitive proof of total failure, and claim to be vindicated in their beliefs.Of course, anyone with a shred of objectivity would look at the fact that Nokia’s first Windows Phone – the Lumia 800 – only launched six months ago, in a handful of markets, followed a few weeks later by the cheaper Lumia 710 and, last month, the flagship Lumia 900. The cheapest member of the Lumia family, the entry-level 610, only went on sale two weeks ago, and is currently available in only two markets. Even with Nokia’s vast marketing budgets and global brand recognition, it’s frankly foolish to expect its handsets to be selling as well as the iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy S II at this stage.But, however idiotic the calls of the antagonists may be, the underlying fact remains that Nokia’s Lumia handsets are not yet selling in significant numbers. There are, of course, perfectly reasonable explanations for this fact, but it remains irrefutable, and it also remains profoundly problematic for Nokia. Stephen Elop’s “burning platform” continues to burn through cash at a frightening rate – and investors are becoming increasingly frustrated by the plummeting value of their shares.
he situation is a peculiar one. The product that Nokia has created is almost universally praised as being excellent. Yes, there are a couple of rough edges, but for a company that succeeded in launching its first Windows Phone handset just eight months after its new strategy was announced – it’s clear to everyone that things will only get better for the Lumia range, particularly with a new volley of exclusive apps being recently announced, and the eagerly anticipated arrival of Windows Phone 8 later this year, which will allow Nokia (and its rivals) to finally unleash some more exciting hardware on buyers, who crave things like quad-core processors for reasons that they don’t really understand.But all that promise hasn’t yet translated into an explosion of sales. It’s far, far too early to declare the Lumia strategy a failure – a plan of this magnitude needs time to be implemented; there are still scores of countries that haven’t yet seen a single Lumia device, or which have barely been touched by the Windows Phone ecosystem at all. That is a problem in itself though.New handsets running unfamiliar operating systems don’t simply launch themselves. It’s not enough to simply make devices available; new handsets quickly get lost in the overwhelming multiplicity of devices that can be found in mobile stores or on carrier websites. Promotion is needed, and to combat the established smartphone players – legions of Androids, BlackBerrys and iPhones among them – a hell of a lot of promotion is needed in order to get noticed.That promotion comes in the form of costly TV advertising (Nokia sponsored an entire TV channel in the UK to launch the Lumia 800), high-profile publicity stunts (like a party in New York’s Times Square), training and incentive programmes for carrier sales staff (the people who push the phones on to punters), and giving away thousands upon thousands of devices (to generate growth in the app ecosystem by supporting developers). This is to say nothing of all the thousands of lower-level spends, like web tie-ins, print ads, local sponsorships and small competitions. It all adds up, very quickly, but Nokia has shown that it’s not afraid to spend, in order to get the job done.
So while the product is great, and the strategy is unfolding, and the promotion is falling into place, it’s still not enough. Not for customers, not for investors. As ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker noted a couple of days ago, Nokia’s share price has collapsed with its market capitalisation dropping from a mighty $151bn to around $12bn in just five years, which is actually even worse performance than RIM. In the last year alone, Nokia’s share price has fallen by over 60%. Two ratings agencies have revised their assessment of Nokia stock, cutting it to ‘junk’ status.However, on the other side of the equation sits Microsoft, and the picture here couldn’t be more different. Despite the harshness of the current economic climate – and challenges such as plummeting console sales and struggles to drag Bing into profit – the company still brought in healthy profits on the back of record quarterly revenues. Microsoft’s pockets are deep – to the tune of almost $60bn – and its investors are broadly satisfied with stable, if not exactly stellar, growth. But the difficulties that Nokia faces are a very big problem for Microsoft too. As many will know, Nokia represents the cornerstone of Microsoft’s Windows Phone strategy.Microsoft’s other partners in its mobile ecosystem have only dipped their toes into the lukewarm waters of Windows Phone; the platform’s short history is littered with the stories of half-hearted efforts by device makers: Dell's departure from Windows Phone after producing just one device, the Venue Pro, plagued by endless problems that it dragged its feet in addressing; Samsung’s firmware woes on both sides of the Atlantic with the original Focus and Omnia 7; and LG’s lackadaisical effort and will-they-won't-they sort-of-retreat from the platform, in the wake of producing wholly unremarkable first-gen handsets, which it never got around to properly replacing, and which no-one – except LG, for some reason
read more: Haktech: Microsoft and Nokia, where does this road go?