Home Nokia Still Has Work to Do to Differentiate Itself With Windows Phone

Nokia Still Has Work to Do to Differentiate Itself With Windows Phone

The last two days at Nokia World 2011 were spent trying to figure out how Nokia CEO Stepehen Elop could justify his claim that his company’s Windows Phone is, in fact, “the first real Windows Phone.” From a marketing and merchandise perspective, it is not. If we take Nokia’s value added services into account, Elop may have a point but there is still a lot of work to do.

The Nokia Lumia 800 is a beautiful phone. It feels nice to hold and has all the tech specs that gadget geeks would expect from a top of the line smartphone (except for a forward facing camera). The big question has been whether Nokia’s implementation of Windows Phone is any better than LG, Samsung or HTC. The answer remains to be seen.

Mango Baked Too Soon For Nokia

By the time the ink was dry on the deal between Nokia and Microsoft to use Windows Phone last February, the major portions of Windows 7.5 Mango were already built and done, according to Ilari Nurmi, Nokia’s VP of product marketing for smart devices.

There are still a number of things to like that Nokia has put into the device. Nokia Maps with Nokia Drive is a solid turn-by-turn navigation system that can work without a data connection. Offline maps with turn by turn fully bring an end to the Garmin and TomTom era of dominance of in-car GPS devices.

Nokia also wants to push its imaging and camera functions as superior functionality in this version of Windows Phone. Nokia is known for its hardware so there is little to argue there. Nokia Music is the third prong that the OEM wants to push as a differentiator that seems more like bloatware from the manufacturer than fixing a problem. At the keynote on Wednesday, Nokia SVP of program and product Kevin Shields said that, “I think we have finally solved the mobile music problem. I am really excited about it.”

There is nothing really special about Nokia Music. It is basically like putting a iPod of pre-loaded songs and playlists into a phone. Yes, that makes it so it can work offline (a larger trend for Nokia which is beneficial to consumers), but smartphones these days handle music just fine, from downloading and local storage to streaming from the cloud.

Nokia has built some augmented reality and public transports applications into the Lumia as well. In terms of these types of applications, Nokia is now just catching up with the rest of the industry.

Road To Differentiation

Nokia’s road to differentiation may prove to be a difficult one. Part of the deal between Microsoft and Nokia is that existing Nokia assets, like maps and location-based services, will be put into future versions of Windows Phone that Microsoft licenses to every OEM. So, to get Nokia Maps, all Samsung will need to do is license the next version of Windows Phone since it will already be in there.

We will see how the next round of Nokia’s Windows Phones come out as Nokia and its very large ecosystem of international developers (which is a big plus for the company over iOS and Android) can create unique function into the device. Nokia is excited and it should be. In the time frame that they have created the device and the marketing program that will come with it, Nokia did about as well as it possibly could have. It just may be a while before the company sees any tangible results from the move.

Traction across the globe where Nokia is strong will not be hard for the company. It is in the developed countries with saturated smartphone markets where it will have a difficulty competing. As we have seen with Android and iOS, those are the markets that push popular products down the value chain. Are Nokia Maps and location services, music and a good camera enough? Time will tell.

Disclosure: Nokia paid for ReadWriteWeb’s travel and accommodations to Nokia World 2011.

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