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This month is going to be full to the brim with mobile happenings and unveilings. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) kicked off the festivities today with a special event in New York to unveil their newest love-children to the world.
An ecosystem of ecosystems
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop took the stage to talk about the company's overall strategic direction. Much like other gadget makers in recent times, Nokia is now focusing beyond hardware and attempting to incorporate language of "ecosystems" into its branding. "We recognized the industry had shifted to a war of ecosystems," Elop said. "This meant giving people beautiful phones while ensuring we deliver services."
That sounds eerily similar to words from other OEMs recently. At the IFA conference in Berlin recently, Samsung also said, "We're the only player in the market capable of creating all the products in the ecosystem," referring to its new "S Ecosystem" strategy. Earlier this year, Sony's new CEO, Kazuo Hirai, outlined his "One Sony" initiative to help engineer the struggling Japanese giant's turnaround, focusing heavily on imaging, gaming, and mobile.
One of Nokia's service advantages over other OEMs is its in-house mapping service Navteq, which is also rumored to have been selected by Amazon.com for its upcoming devices. Nokia also just announced a new music-streaming service available only on its Lumia phones called Nokia Music.
Elop highlighted that the Windows Phone platform now has 100,000 apps and that it grew three times as fast once Nokia joined up.
The new devices are important as the first batch of Nokia's Windows Phone 8 lineup.
First up was the Lumia 920, "the next generation of Lumia." Nokia called it "the most innovative smartphone in the world." The company also added a wireless charging feature, and the headline feature is the inclusion of a PureView camera. It's an 8.7-megapixel sensor, not the monstrous 41 megapixels found in other PureView models.
Lumia 920. Source: Nokia.
Lumia 920. Source: Nokia.
Lumia 920. Source: Nokia.
The device will sport a 4.5-inch curved glass display and be powered by a dual-core Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) Snapdragon S4. There's no surprise there, as all Windows Phone 8 devices will be powered by Snapdragon processors for the time being. Near-field communications, or NFC, is also supported.
The Lumia 920 is Nokia's new flagship phone.
Its smaller brother is the Lumia 820, carrying a 4.3-inch display. It shares a lot of the same features, such as NFC, Nokia's location services, and wireless charging. This model will be geared toward lower-end markets but is still a respectable upgrade from older devices.
The timing of the unveiling is good for one reason: It minimizes the time between the Windows Phone 8 announcement and its launch. The new platform was officially announced in June, and an important point was that new apps would not be backward-compatible with Windows Phone 7 devices.
Existing apps would be forward-compatible and work on the new platform, but that arrangement is a strong incentive not to buy a Windows Phone 7 device, since a consumer would effectively be buying into a platform with no future. They would inevitably postpone purchases, and the Osborne effect could crush existing device sales. The longer Nokia waited to launch a Windows Phone 8 device, the more prolonged this effect would be.
It's been less than three months, so any drop-off in unit sales that could conceivably be linked to waiting for WP8 would only be suffered for about a quarter. That's much more manageable than what's happening to Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , which outlined its next-generation QNX-based platform in Q1 2011, more than a year and a half ago, and still has yet to launch. Assuming BlackBerry 10 is on time this time around, we're looking at about two years between announcement and launch. Makes three months seem like a drop in the bucket.
Of course, the big bad date for Nokia to watch out for is that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is unveiling its latest iPhone in exactly one week on Sept. 12. Trying to front-run Apple's iPhone event is a risky move, and one that's unlikely to pay off. Even if Nokia impresses the market and consumers with these new devices, their attention is guaranteed to be short-lived as all eyes turn to Apple and will stay fixated on Cupertino from there on out.
Other rivals have sometimes chosen to decidedly avoid Apple unveilings because going head-to-head against the company for attention is almost always a losing proposition. It's a tough call, though. Either Nokia chooses to go first and get a little attention before being iWashed out, or it goes after, in which case no one would even notice it.
Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White was just out with a research note saying that rivals are picking the "worst time" to do unveilings, with the iPhone launch looming on the horizon.
It's up to the market now
Microkia continues to mount a formidable alternative in the smartphone platform wars. Combined, the pair offers impressive hardware, integrating Navteq mapping services, as well as access to Microsoft's growing suite of online cloud services that rival even mighty Google's.
Unfortunately, investors clearly aren't impressed, as the stock dropped as much as 15% on the unveiling. If investors aren't taking a shine to the Lumia 920, will consumers?
With just a week before the iPhone 5 event, investors had better read up on Apple before it takes the wraps off the newest model. As a bonus, I've written a comprehensive report all about the iPhone 5 that's now included as a perk in our premium ticker report on Apple. In it, you'll find a detailed breakdown of critical components expected in the iPhone 5 and how to profit on it. Grab your copy today.