Nokia is mulling over Windows 8 and a foray into tablets as the company continues its quest to reassert itself in the mobile market, though its recent Lumia phone launch faces delays in the U.S.
The Finnish phone maker recently unveiled its first official Windows Phone device, seeking to regain its former prominence in a field it ceded to rivals like Apple and Android OS phone makers.
The Lumia line is set to hit key Nokia markets in Europe and Asia later this year, but the company’s global renewal may face a late launch in the U.S., where the phones may not debut until early 2012. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop noted in an interview with website This Is My Next that the Lumia series was just part of a larger portfolio of devices and launches for next year.
Carrier negotiations have held up the U.S. launch, according to Elop. Other factors, such shoring up factories and supply lines, as well as boosting technologies and services required by U.S. consumers, have also delayed the release of the Lumia line.
Despite delays, Nokia is forging ahead, seeking to make its mark by delivering a premium user experience. Nokia’s previous strengths in hardware innovation may garner its new devices some attention, but the company is looking down the road at software partner Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 OS as a strong opportunity to create a distinctive, connected mobile experience for consumers and possibly expand into tablets.
Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS is set to operate on Nokia’s PCs and tablets, promising tight integration between both desktop and mobile devices. Elop hinted at the platform’s possibilities for Nokia, noting the opportunities it presents to expand beyond smartphones.
“There is a broader opportunity here,” said Elop. “The user experience of Windows 8 is essentially a supercharged version of the Nokia Lumia experience that you saw on stage today. And you see the parallels and opportunity for commonality from a user perspective.”
Elop also notes Microsoft’s bet on HTML5 “is another big clue” to how the platforms may interrelate over time.
HTML5 allows Internet-based programs and apps to run regardless of platform or device. Nokia may therefore begin developing apps that can operate on tablets, mobile devices and PCs, which may make it easier for developers to build for Nokia’s OS.
Elop’s vision of tight hardware integration with Windows 8 contrasts with Google Android chief Andy Rubin’s recent assertion that Windows Phone may be “very dangerous for Microsoft.”
Windows Phones’ hardware partners like Nokia are in danger of creating a bland “beige box” product, according to Rubin, contrasting Windows with Android’s ability to let manufacturers customize interfaces and features on the platform.
But Elop countered that Android’s fragmentation and lack of cohesion across phone makers creates a dissatisfying experience for Android phone users.
“I would suggest that one of the biggest challenges facing that particular ecosystem is the fact that there is more and more of that going on,” said Elop. “And when I go into the store and look at what that brand was supposed to stand for, I’m not quite seeing it — it’s just unclear what the standard is for the user experience.”
The idea of a strong, unified user experience across devices begs the question of whether Nokia will eventually make a definitive foray into the tablet market, much like its rival Apple, which also created a seamless experience across iOS devices. Elop sidestepped the question, but seemed to leave an opening, saying Nokia joined an “ecosystem” that extends well beyond phones.
Nokia is forging ahead in its larger strategy to regain ground, but still faces many challenges as rivals like Apple and Samsung unveil their popular flagship devices in time for the holiday retail season. The Lumia’s delay in the U.S. may be a short-term blow for Nokia, but the company is pursuing an evolving, long-term strategy and eyeing its future accordingly.