The real question: Is Nokia already too late to compete?
In February, Nokia announced it was adopting Windows Phone 7 as its platform, killing Symbian and leaving MeeGo to die on the vine. This was about the same time Microsoft officially announced the Mango update to Windows Phone 7, so it was a good bet Nokia would wait until Mango shipped to release a phone.
Mango started shipping last week, and that opened the doors for phonemakers to release devices preloaded with the updated platform. Even though Nokia hasn't shipped a single device running WP7, it is easily Microsoft's most strategic partner. Nokia has dominated the smartphone sales charts for years and only this summer lost that position. The company still has good relations with most carriers around the world and that will give Windows Phone inroads it hasn't had so far. The sooner the phones launch, the better--for both Microsoft and Nokia.
A Nokia spokesperson suggested that there would be more than one device launched in the fourth quarter. FierceWireless was told that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop "was referring to what we've said before--that we're looking forward to revealing the first Nokia with Windows Phone smartphones to the world in the near future." That is smartphones, not smartphone.
There is still a question as to where a Nokia device would launch. The bet is it will be in Europe, as that is where the Finnish maker has the strongest carrier relationships. That is also where Microsoft chose to launch Windows Phone in 2010, a month before the platform came to the United States.
The longer Nokia waits, the more at risk the company is. This week's Apple announcement won't help the company at all. Apple has the whole price range covered between the new iPhone 4S, the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 3GS. The latter will be free on contract, and it is hard to beat free. Apple can do this because the 3GS is over two years old now. There are no old Nokia phones, so the question is, will Nokia be able to engineer a phone that meets the Windows Phone 7 requirements and still come in at $99, $50, or even free? Covering the mid-range and high-end won't be a problem.
It shouldn't be long before Nokia reveals its hand. In order to make a dent in Q4 sales, it will have to make holiday deadlines, and that means anything after mid-November may be too late. That is just six weeks away.
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