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Big update also planned for the Lumia 800

Two of the biggest factors against Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Phone 7 operating system when it launched in late 2010 were lack of compelling packaging and lack of carrier support.

Handset makers:
Were more interested in Android.
Figured WP7 would be low volume.
Ironically, noticed that WP7 performed great on low-end hardware.

Thus they shoved the OS onboard their most ugly budget models.  Ironically, many of these handsets still performed well, although they were far behind Android and Apple, Inc. (AAPL) in the looks department.  This -- along with Microsoft not paying carriers sales commissions -- led to a general lack of interest in carriers pitching WP7 handsets.

I. Nokia and AT&T Are Windows Phone's Dynamic Duo

Well, all of that is starting to change, thanks to Nokia Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V) and AT&T Inc. (T).

Nokia offered the first piece of the puzzle -- attractive packaged phones.  Nokia wowed with sleek handsets like the 4.3-inch display LTE-enabled Lumia 900; its "little brother", the 3.7-inch HSPA+ Lumia 800; and the upcoming Nokia Lumia 808 PureView, which featured a 41 megapixel camera, and potentially will get LTE treatment.

The Nokia Lumia 900. [Image Source: Nokia]

The next trick was finding a carrier to pitch the phone to customers -- a vital step, given the general public apathy with regards to high technology.  As Apple has demonstrated, a strong pitch can win over the masses.

AT&T long considered itself the "premium" WP7 vendor, yet its new efforts eclipse anything it has previously done -- or which any U.S. carrier has done, thus far, with Windows Phone.

Jeff Bradley, AT&T device chief says that the April 8 launch of the Lumia 900 will be a bigger launch than the exclusive 2007 Apple iPhone debut (or any iPhone debut for that matter).  In a CNET interview, he states, "At all levels, this is a notch above anything we've ever done.  Before you walk in to the store, you know this is our hero phone.  We're going big.  We're really bullish."

iPhone 2007
AT&T says that the Nokia Lumia 900 launch will be bigger than any iPhone launch to date.
[Image Source:]

Nokia and AT&T are being careful not to overhype too early, as has been the case with some Android devices that were hyped months before then sold poorly.  Instead, they plan to unleash a flood of advertising almost consecutively with the launch.

Recall that even Sprint Nextel Corp.'s (S) -- a distant third in subscribers -- was able to give Android a big 2010 boost with its resounding 4G-backed commitment to the platform.  When it's AT&T -- America's second largest carrier, Windows Phone may just have found its hero.  Or perhaps given that AT&T is looking for the next great thing, with the end of iPhone exclusivity, perhaps the situation is the other way around -- AT&T has found an unexpected hero.

II. Truly Modern

AT&T could pick a worse superphone to stake its reputation on.  

While Apple and Google are still stuck with 90s-era Chiclet icons, Microsoft's bleeding edge UI has been delighting the small crowd of early adopters with its rich modern tile-based UI.  Windows Phone screams of a smartphone OS that isn't trying to be on the defining edge of modern -- it is the defining edge of modern.  The only thing it is missing has been sales and handsets.

In recent months Windows Phone's Marketplace has soared in apps:
Aug. 2011: 30,000 apps [source]
Dec. 2011: 50,000 apps [source]
Mar. 2012: 70,000 apps [source]

Windows Phone Marketplace

At this pace, it's on track to cross the 100,000 app mark by sometime mid-year.  That places it in a lofty crowd that its current and former rivals like Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:RIM) and Hewlett Packard Comp. (HPQ) have struggled to reach.  Recall that in mid-2009, Apple still only had 65,000 apps a year after the launch of the App Store.

With Apple and Android both reaching the saturation point, Microsoft is seeing soaring developer interest.  And that ultimately means that most of the most beloved apps of Android and iOS are on Windows Phone.

At this point the only thing holding Microsoft back is the learning curve, but given that Microsoft's core apps are quite intuitive, it seems like customers could be talked into taking the plunge.  A sub-$100 Lumia 900 could sweeten the deal substantially.

III. Nokia Lumia 800 Gets a Boost

While the Lumia 900 may be getting the bear's share of AT&T's hype -- and marketing dollars -- it's also important AT&T puts forth a well-rounded lineup.  To that end, the Lumia 800 is receiving a major update.

While it's not official yet, write-ups have indicated the Lumia 800 is compatible with AT&T's network and may be headed to it later this spring/summer.

Lumia 800 and 710

The Nokia Lumia 800 (left) and 710 (right). [Image Source: Nokia]

The new Lumia 800 software -- V1600.2487.8107.12070 -- is being moved forward from April 18 to starting this week.  The four-week global rollout marks Nokia's third major update to the Lumia 800, which launched in November globally.

Nokia offers the humorous analogy that the update is like shepherding, writing:

The real-life analogy that I can think about to describe this is herding sheep through a gate. For a Windows Phone partner, developing a smartphone is like that: there’s always a balance to be struck between what you can do and what you’d like to do, between what you can offer now and later. But due to the urgent need to get this update in the hands of people, we were able to bring the schedule forward, although not all at the same time.

The update focuses on battery life and is supposed to bring total battery life up to around 25 to 30 hours on the stock 1450 mAh battery.

Again no U.S. carrier has officially launched the Lumia 800 -- yet.  But both AT&T and America's top carrier Verizon Wireless (a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc.'s (LON:VOD)) reportedly are moving towards deploying LTE-enabled variants.  Together, the two giants account for around three quarters of the U.S. market in terms of subscribers.

For now AT&T is the clear leader of the Windows Phone charge.

But as happened with Sprint's Android pickup and AT&T's iPhone pickup, don't be surprised if Verizon Wireless jumps on the Windows Phone bandwagon in a big way this year or next.

Suddenly Windows Phone has gone pencil pushing shy nerd to the cool new kid in town.  It's hard to say exactly how far it will rise, but it's safe to say that the Lumia 900 launch will be the first of its kind for Windows Phone.

Looks like Microsoft finally made a smart investment in the phone space.

Sources: CNET, Nokia

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By dgingerich on 3/29/2012 6:57:15 PM , Rating: 2
regardless, I'm waiting for a bit to see how this develops. If they come out with a couple top of the line phones, and they perform better than the Android phones with the same or similar stuff, I'll consider it. Right now, I'm not convinced.

RE: waiting
By Pirks on 3/29/2012 9:19:27 PM , Rating: 2
WP7 already performs better than Android, get some reality check in a nearest store that sells WP7 handsets

RE: waiting
By Omega215D on 3/29/2012 10:45:55 PM , Rating: 2
As someone who likes Android a lot I would not hesitate to get the Nokia Lumia 900 with LTE should it be available for Verizon. I tried out the HTC Trophy and it was great to use.

Nokia is still known to make good reliable phones and WP7 is a smooth and efficient mobile OS. All it needs is more app development and hardware that's a bit more up to date (higher res screens, GPU and dual core would be nice). Not necessary but something for futureproofing. My HTC Thunderbolt gets by great and it's "only" single core.

RE: waiting
By RufusM on 3/30/2012 12:02:39 PM , Rating: 4
There are a few things that are strikes against WP7 as of now:

1. Lack of apps
2. App development lags iOS and Android so its mindshare is degraded
3. For those not completely in the MS ecosystem, it's tough to ditch another ecosystem when you're invested in it.

MS has to offer an easy, inexpensive way to switch or they need to go after the new smartphone buyer.

RE: waiting
By RufusM on 3/30/2012 12:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
...or have THE killer app that's not on any other platform. I couldn't way what that could be at this point other than MS Office but there's only so much Office-ey stuff you can do on a small screen.

RE: waiting
By sigmatau on 4/1/2012 5:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
I think they offer trade in deals for Windows phones. I have tried out an HTC Titan and it is a million times better than my GS2.

Android has several apps missing from its library too as people seem to want to support the smaller market (iOS) more for some crazy reason. Windows Phone has about 100k apps. It took Apple 3x as long to get 100k apps in their store.

If the HTC Titan is so much better than the flagship android phone (GS2), then I can image that the Nokia 900 will be a slam dunk. It's not even close: WP kills Android in terms of usability.

RE: waiting
By Ammohunt on 3/29/2012 10:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
Android is the only ones set to suffer for Windows based phones iPhones will not see and impact i feel.

RE: waiting
By Rukkian on 3/30/2012 1:09:01 PM , Rating: 4
Not sure how you figure that, a lot of people that chose Android (myself included) did so because we wanted choice, and did not like the locked down, hold my hand, do only what we think you want to do approach of Apple.

MS is following Apple with a locked down, closed system. I can definately see it being the final nail for BB and possible pulling some people from both Apple and Android, but will probably not be a leader anytime soon.

RE: waiting
By BuffDaddySmurf on 3/30/12, Rating: 0
"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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