MWC: Nokia Covers Bases with Windows, Symbian

MWC: Nokia Covers Bases with Windows, Symbian

Nokia will offer a diverse range of phones this year, boosting both its feature phone business, while betting big on Windows to propel its high-end smartphones to success.

Nokia announced the new budget-friendly Windows Lumia 610 at the Mobile World Congress and played up several upgraded basic phones that run on the older Symbian operating system, including the Asha 202 and 203, the Asha 302 equipped with keyboard, and the mid-range 808 PureView, which boasts a camera with 41-megapixel resolution.

Nokia is banking on the Windows Lumia line, already successful in the U.K., to launch the company into the high-end smartphone market. The focus on feature phones running its aging Symbian platform surprised many at the showcase, but shows the company broadening its focus to include various markets.

The Finnish phone maker maintains a strong following in emerging markets like India and the Middle East, with 1.5 billion feature phones sold globally. Offering a new Windows feature phone, in addition to upgraded basic options on lower-priced models, will likely help the company keep a stable bottom line. That allows Nokia to please existing customers while rolling out the higher-end Lumia phones in Europe and North America, and eventually China.

Nokia, once a major player in the U.S. smartphone market, lost significant ground to the rapid rise of Apple and Android smartphones. Microsoft is also struggling to make a splash with its operating system, which failed to gain ground in other devices. The partnership between the two companies aims to regain Nokia’s lost ground and offer Windows the chance to become a major player in smartphone software.

The lack of apps in Nokia Windows phones could set the phone maker back in the crowded U.S. smartphone market, however. The Windows platform now offers 65,000 apps in its store, but lags behind giants Apple and Android, which offer hundreds of thousands of apps and games. Consumers repeatedly list apps as a high priority when choosing new devices, and Nokia and Microsoft are working furiously to close the gap by bolstering incentives and relationships with app developers.

Still, there is potential for success with a planned marketing blitz for the U.S. Lumia launch on AT&T topping $100 million and a focus on first-time smartphone buyers. Nearly half of U.S. residents own smartphones, and new activations are soaring. A user-friendly phone with Microsoft’s software is expected to appeal to new customers to enter the smartphone world.

Nokia is wisely diversifying its offerings, catering to existing customers with upgraded feature phones and new customers with the Lumia line, perhaps learning from its past mistakes not to put all its Symbian phones in one basket.

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