Nokia World: How do you own the platform when you don’t own the platform?

Nokia World, London – Having jumped off of a burning platform and into Redmond’s arms – a story that I (partially) broke on TechCrunch back in February this year – Nokia this morning finally took the wraps off its much anticipated entry into the Windows Phone world with two new devices: The flagship Lumia 800 and a lower-cost but competitively spec’ed (for a Windows Phone, anyway) Lumia 710.

I’ll get this out of the way right now. The Nokia Lumia 800 is a great looking device, sharing its design cues if not its internals with the recently launched meego-powered N9. After spending some hands-on time with the Lumia 800, overall there’s much to like if not love about this phone. However, much of the credit has to go to Microsoft not Nokia as the OS – Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) – is all Redmond’s own work. And herein lies the conundrum.

How does Nokia intend to own the platform when it doesn’t actually own the platform? How will the company differentiate its smartphone wares in a sea of Androids and iPhones and, drilling down further, with LG, Samsung and others offering Windows Phone-powered handsets. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop himself inadvertently highlighted the exact problem when he described his decision not to adopt Google’s Android for fear of commodization. Today we got a partial answer.

Exclusive apps and services

Right off the bat, Nokia announced two exclusive apps/services that it’s bringing to its Windows Phone devices. The first is Nokia Drive, which brings free turn-by-turn navigation, including a very slick in-car user interface, to its new Lumia range of smartphones. Perhaps not surprising given that all of Nokia’s recent Symbian smartphones come with free sat-nav powered by Nokia Maps. Still, free, lifetime, turn-by-turn navigation is nothing to turn your nose up at and it’s a feature that will come right out of the box.

Second, Nokia Music on Windows Phone sees an upgrade: MixRadio is a music-streaming service that uses the Internet radio model and can be compared to something like Pandora or We7. It comes with preset ‘mixes’ based on genres or artists and, crucially, supports off-line playback. Like Nokia Drive, it’s a free service, although I’m not sure if the company plans to monetize through advertising. Streaming isn’t cheap.

(They’ll be a curated app store too, reports SlashGear).

Carrier support and marketing

On stage, Elop said that in Europe alone, the company has already signed up 31 operators and retailers who have said that they want Nokia’s Lumia 800 to be one of their hero smart phones. That’s good news for the company after Symbian became the ugly stepchild of the industry and would also explain why pictures of the device leaked so early. Then there’s a hefty marketing campaign, some of which we got a glimpse of today. Again, Elop said this would be by far the biggest campaign Nokia has ever run.

Industrial design and logistics

Lastly, as already noted, the Lumia 800’s industrial design (full spec here) appears to be some of Nokia’s best work. The company is also playing on its perceived strengths by employing Carl Zeiss optics to support the phone’s 8MP camera. As was said on stage, it is a Nokia after all.

And in what feels like a Nokia first, the Nokia Lumia 800 will be available in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK this November. Yes, next month, not next quarter or six months later (hello N97). It will be priced at approximately €420 before taxes and subsidies and is scheduled to be available in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan before the end of the year, and “in further markets in early 2012”. Alas, North America has to wait again but that’s fine with me.

In a smart PR move too, Elop’s keynote address ended with a live video feed from a Nokia factory in Finland to see a Lumia 800 being boxed up. It was reminiscent of the Xfactor TV show final when the winner’s CD is seen being pressed live. So, yes, this thing is going to ship real soon.

Overall, after jumping from a burning platform into the unknown, Nokia’s future became a little clearer today. A future that offers much hope.

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

22 Responses to “Nokia World: How do you own the platform when you don’t own the platform?”

  1. Izmo says:

    Yes, I have not yet try and will not bought Mango device (either Nokia). Nokia’s strategy is to keep most of user out of N9 (Meego) to get byers for MS-Nokia phones. Maybe I will bought N9 because it is something new and intersting.

    I have wonder long time why to bought Nokia MS phones do You have answer why? If Mango is so good why Samsung or LG sell only some of MS phones? Software may be good but not anything amazing.

    I don’t see the point when Nokia run MS-software inside where is Nokia’s profit? I mean how Nokia make their money? Phone selling will bring only some prozent maximum 8 – 9 % profit before taxes ect. Anyway Nokia had make some big mistakes and biggest was to forgot customers and US market.

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