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Wraps off Nokia’s last gamble
- Less-than-impressive initial response at Lumia launch

New York, Sept. 5 (Reuters): Nokia and Microsoft Corp took the veil off the struggling European company’s most powerful smartphone today, in what may be their last major shot at reclaiming a market lost to Apple, Samsung and Google.

The world’s largest software maker and the Finnish company that once dominated the cellphone market showcased the device in New York today, and planned to demonstrate it for industry insiders in Helsinki as well.

Microsoft and Nokia hope the Lumia will become a potent weapon in an escalating global mobile industry war, but analysts were initially less than impressed. Nokia’s shares plummeted 15 per cent shortly after the unveiling, to 1.94 euros (around Rs 136).

Many of the industry analysts who got to see the phone up close in New York said it was a solid device with a few differentiating features, but it did not push the envelope — as Nokia CEO Stephen Elop had said it would.

The Lumia 920 and smaller Lumia 820 run on the latest Windows Phone operating software, which Microsoft hopes will rival Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android to become a third mobile platform. If the new phones do not appeal to consumers, it could spell the end for money-losing Nokia and deal a serious blow to Microsoft in its attempts to regain its footing in the market.

The Lumia 920 — which executives billed today as the flagship Windows phone — sports “Pureview” camera technology to reduce blurring from hand motion, and wireless charging capability. Powered by Qualcomm Inc’s Snapdragon processor, it comes with augmented reality technology that lets users see details of their surroundings through the camera.

The Lumia 920 — available in yellow or red — sports a bigger, brighter 4.5-inch screen than Nokia’s previous smartphones, taking a page from rivals such as Samsung, which has backed larger displays in past years. It comes with an 8.7 megapixel camera, in line with rival devices, but Nokia hopes the “Pureview” technology will give it an edge.

“The Lumia 920 feels like more of an evolution of existing Lumia phones than the revolution we expected from the close collaboration between Nokia and Microsoft,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight. The two companies “will have to spend eye-watering sums on marketing and offer the new phones at aggressively low prices”.

Google’s Motorola Mobility intends to show off its latest smartphone later on Wednesday, Amazon.com Inc will unwrap new Kindle Fire tablets on Thursday, and Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of its seminal iPhone on September 12. Samsung Electronics says it will sell its own Windows phone as early as next month.

The Finnish handset maker has logged more than 3 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in operating losses in the past 18 months, forcing it to cut 10,000 jobs and pursue asset sales.

Its share of the global smartphone market has plunged to less than 10 per cent from 50 per cent during its heyday, before the iPhone was launched in 2007.

Windows phones have only captured 3.7 per cent of the global smartphone market, according to Strategy Analytics. Android phones have 68 per cent, while Apple has 17 per cent.

For Microsoft, successful Lumia sales could convince more handset makers and carriers to support its Windows Phone 8 software.

Samsung last week became the first to announce a smartphone running Windows Phone 8, at the IFA trade show in Berlin. But it was not able to provide the model to visitors at the show.

Part of the reason for the limited success of Windows phones is that they support only 100,000 or so apps, compared with about 500,000 or more for Android or iPhones.

There is also the interconnection between apps and content, typified by Apple’s iTunes and iCloud, which share content across devices, that acts as a powerful disincentive to switch between vendors.

But for Nokia and Microsoft to exploit that window of opportunity, it must first find favour with consumers, who so far have shown little enthusiasm for smartphones with Windows software.

 
 
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