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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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RE: Specs
By jnemesh on 3/30/2012 11:46:13 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, the phone runs VERY fast with only that single core CPU. Unfortunately, some tasks, such as recording video, are limited because of this single core as well. Current Android phones can record at 1080p...this is limited to 720p. Also games and graphics will be affected as well. Now, dont get me wrong, you can play some great games on a 1.4ghz single core, but compared to the latest quad core monsters that will be launching this spring on the competition? I think they are at a disadvantage. Also, WP7 doesnt even support high resolutions on the phones! New Samsung phones are coming with 1080p displays, and the new HTC One sports a 720p display. This will probably be the most noticeable difference to the average consumer...the quality of the screen.

Then you have the ecosystem. Microsoft is trying VERY hard to mimic Apple and their successful iOS platform. They are making a phone that is TOTALLY locked down. No jailbreaking, no sideloading apps. ALL software that runs on the phone will be purchased from Microsoft, through the official Microsoft App Store. This bothers me a whole bunch, but you may or may not care...but it IS something to consider.

Microsoft IS trying hard to make the experience on the desktop and mobile platforms the same...this is the whole reason for "Metro" on Windows 8. Unfortunately, legacy Windows programs (the ones you are running on your Windows PC now), will not run on the new ARM based Windows 8 designed for tablets. You will have to buy a more expensive ($800+ according to recent estimates) tablet if you want to run ALL Windows apps. This "Self-fragmentation" that Microsoft is working towards looks to be a disaster...I could be wrong, but I think it is going to lead to confusion and disappointment for a LOT of people!

Back to the phones. If you are looking for a replacement for your Mom's "dumb phone"...a Windows Phone may be a good bet. I think there IS room in the market for a 3rd competitor here. However, compared to iOS and Android, the platform lacks a LOT (no Pandora for one, and there are TONS of other popular apps that will never make it to the platform as well...look before you leap if you have a favorite app!) There is a lot going for Windows Phones as a platform, but so far, after a year and a half, they have only managed 2.5% of the market...Palm posted better numbers with the Pre! If they don't turn things around VERY soon, this will end up being a dead platform and you will be left with a very nice, but unsupported, device. It happened to me with my Palm Pre...and it is happening to millions of Blackberry customers right now.

Take a look, play with the phone, and compare it to the competition, then make up your own mind. There is a LOT of back and forth on the forums here (I am guilty of more than one trolling post on this myself)....but in the end, YOU are the person who will have the decision to make. Try to make a good one!

RE: Specs
By koenshaku on 3/30/2012 12:18:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think everyone knows what specs do for phones here. I am really only concerned, about getting information off my phone, using a couple social in a timely fashion, with an intuitive UI that I can navigate with smoothly even when my handset is mounted in my car. Instead of trying to flick through a sea of small icons on my iphone or worse an android handset that has preinstalled apps you don't even use. This is the reason I am buying a Lumia 900 when it comes out not 1080p you can't see the difference from in quality from the 720p because the bitrate is lower...

RE: Specs
By rocketbuddha on 3/30/2012 12:38:40 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you. Generally when you are buying a new smartphone fresh as a back-up/international phone, a Windows phone can give a good ROI. But in the US scene where contract is the kind, if I am getting a Lumia at $99.99 for a 2yr deal vs a LG Nitro/HTC Vivid/ Samsung Sky rocket for the same $99.99 price for a 2yr deal, which do you think is the choice that is far easier to make.

Dual core - faster hardware wise.
Better Ram
Wider market share and apps.
More features like 1080p recording by default.

But Nokia is the one thing that can bring something unique to Windows phone that other manufacturers cannot bring/hesitate to invest. They develop applications/software and can port the apps from its Ovi Store (now defunct) to the Windows platform.

a) Its Maps (from its NAVTEQ subsidiary).
b) Cameras (though HTC is 1 upping them with 16M in Titan II)

A offline GPS as well as capability to download offline maps for any part of the world wherever allowed(as long as u have storage capacity to spare), for free, Nokia can make hay while the sun shines....

If it fails then Microsoft can continue to shut its WinPhone business and make money from Android as they do today ;-)

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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