Nokia's Lumia 900 is landing in the U.S. with a 4G handset on AT&T. The move is critical for both Nokia and Microsoft since any hopes for Windows Phone are tethered to a strong U.S. entry.
As has been the case since Nokia and Microsoft hooked up, critics have praised the combo of a new hardware style with Windows Phone. But consumers aren't exactly lining up around the block yet.
The Lumia 900 is a strong smartphone entry. It's big, thin and supports Long Term Evolution 4G service, which is a necessity if Nokia and Microsoft are going to compete. The 4G market has been handed to Android on a platter for more than a year.
Now Nokia can make a run---or not. I'd quibble that Nokia's Windows Phone device needs Verizon for LTE more than AT&T, but it's a start. The consensus view is that Nokia will face difficulties in the U.S.---and potentially abroad---but it's worth pondering what can go right.
- AT&T gives Nokia's Lumia some real marketing support. The largest challenge for Nokia, Research in Motion and other Android and Apple rivals is shelf space. It's hard to get telecoms to push your wares. Nokia and AT&T have been longtime partners and that may give the devices some marketing air cover. It doesn't hurt that Microsoft will throw some dough behind the Lumia too.
- The Nokia-Microsoft devices hit features that really matter. In an interview with CNET's Maggie Reardon, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said that battery life may be a differentiating feature. If Nokia can thread the battery life-4G needle then it will have a real advantage.
- Consumers could get on the bandwagon. Critics love Windows Phone, but consumers haven't bought in. If consumers get behind Nokia word of mouth may give it some real momentum. Nokia devices could become different enough to be cool. The current view is that Nokia smartphones are just different enough that no one will buy the devices. Americans just don't know Nokia anymore.
- Verizon could give Nokia a lift. Don't look now but Verizon has said that all of its smartphones will be 4G LTE. If Nokia can get into Verizon quickly then it'll have more distribution. More distribution combined with better battery life could give Nokia a boost in the U.S.
- Nokia could have a sustainable cadence of devices to keep consumers interested. Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelblum and international analysts noted that Lumia 800 interest may be tapering off already, but the Lumia 900 could attract buyers. The smartphone market is hypercompetitive and Nokia will need a steady cadence of devices to compete. Should hit a good stride with its product roadmap it may catch some volume.