Best Buy has started taking preorders for Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia and HTC, starting on October 21. With a contract, the HTC 8X is available for $99.99; Nokia the Lumia 920 for $149.99 (both on AT&T).
The Lumia 920, unlocked, is $599.99. The HTC 8X, unlocked (and available in "California Blue" only, at this point) also is $599.99. There was no information on HTC 8X's availability or pricing on Verizon or T-Mobile (though HTC has said it is coming to both of those networks.) The Lumia 920 is exclusive on AT&T for some unknown period of time. six months, according to a Lumia training video posted to YouTube by WPCentral.
Best Buy's Web site said that the devices were available for preorder online and in stores. That made me crazily -- and foolishly -- hope there might be demo units in the stores, even though the Windows Phone 8 launch, scheduled for October 29, is still a week away.
I went to two Best Buys in Manhattan this afternoon. No Windows Phone 8 devices were anywhere in sight. And no one in the stores seemed to have a date when they would be. They also seemed to have not yet received any Windows Phone 8 training or information beyond in which colors the coming phones might be available.
The reaction from salespeople in both stores when I pulled out my Windows Phone 7 HTC Trophy was one of disbelief. I'm not sure they'd ever seen a Windows Phone 7 user in the wild. I told them I was "one of the three percent." They looked stunned. Retail personnel in both stores enthusiastically encouraged me to preorder Windows Phone 8, but didn't have any information on when I'd be able to get my phone if I did so. I told them I'd prefer to try a phone before I buy a phone.
At one of the Best Buys, a salesperson volunteered that Windows Phone 8 was "Microsoft's last chance at being relevant in the smartphone world."
At both of the Best Buy stores I visited, a few Windows 8 PCs and touch monitors were on display. Users were free to try them out, with some "cheat sheet" navigational guidance (a few sentences) built into the displays. I was one of two people trying out the demo models in one store. I was the only one in the other. It wasn't clear to me that the Best Buy salespeople had yet received much training about Windows 8.
I'm not presenting this anecdotal evidence in an attempt to declare Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 a failure. But today's field trip did make me realize yet again the big hurdles Microsoft has to overcome with its soon-to-be-available Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 phones and PCs.
Update: A few readers have noted that Best Buy removed late in the day on October 21 the Lumia 920 devices from its preorder page. No word as to why. The HTC 8X is still there, however, and available for preorder.