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Nokia's first Windows Phone to be launched in a year's time

Monday, 14 March 2011 - 6:04pm IST Updated: Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 3:54pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna
Phone will tie-in to Facebook, bing, games from Microsoft; Nokia will launch around 20 smartphones this year.

Nokia will launch its first Windows Mobile phone in roughly 12 months from now, the Finnish firm’s India MD, D Shivakumar said. Shivakumar also defended the deal with PC operating system maker pointing to Microsoft’s strengths in areas such as socia networking, search and other software.

In a regulatory filing in the US on Friday, Nokia had said that it expected most of its smartphones to migrate to the Windows Mobile platform only in two years, setting off speculation that it will take two years to implement the strategy.

Nokia and Microsoft had announced a deal last month under which Nokia promised to build smartphones only on Windows platform, and to abandon other platforms like Android and Symbian.

According to Canalys, a global IT market research firm, the share of Windows in total smarphone sales had plummeted to just 3% during the last quarter of 2010 despite having been present on more than half of the smartphones in the early 2000s. In comparison, Symbian, which is being discarded by Nokia, had a marketshare of 31%.

Critics and consumers dismissed the last major version of Windows Mobile, called Windows Mobile 6, as being clunky and resource-hungry, though they have been kinder on the new version -- Windows Mobile 7, unveiled earlier this year.

Shivakumar said Nokia’s bet is on the new version and its is much better than the earlier ones. “We took the decision after looking at that operating system [Windows Mobile 7]. It’s a good operating system,” he said, when asked about abandoning a popular product for a less popular one.

Nokia, which has around 35-40% of India’s cellphone market, is estimated to be maintaining its share in the smarphone market as well, despite teething troubles in bringing new models to market. The Finnish firm has been caught in a semi-paralysis for the last 2 years as rivals such as Samsung and LG raced ahead by introducing tens of new models in the smartphone category.

The flounder also cost Nokia’s four-year-old CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo his job late last year, and brought Stephen Elop, then head of Microsoft’s business division to Nokia’s head.

Shivakumar said the alliance between Nokia and Microsoft will give the latter a second shot at the mobile market, thanks to Nokia’s 33% global marketshare.

“Microsoft has been looking for a strong hardware partner, but they have been on phones [platforms] which has not given them that strength. With Nokia, suddenly the scales are huge.

“So, for the first time in many a markets, people will get used to a Windows Mobile phone thanks to the Nokia tie-up,” he pointed out.

For Nokia, the deal will help the company give a quiet burial to the ailing Symbian operating system while leveraging Microsoft’s influence as a shareholder at Facebook to bring nifty features to its future smartphones.

“Its [new] operating system has links to it [Facebook].. It has a range of services which complement Nokia services -- they have Bing [search], Zune [music] and games,” the India MD said. Asked how many new smartphones can be expected from Nokia this year, Shivakumar said the firm "usually launches around 40-45" models a year. Up to half of them could be smarphones, he added.

He also claimed that the Rs 23,000 ‘N8’ trebled the Indian smartphone market since its launch six months ago. Around 6 million out of the 155 million phones sold in India last year are expected to have been ‘smart’, according to research firm IDC India. They are expected to hit 39 million units by 2014, according to Canalys.




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