HTC vs. Nokia Windows Phone 8 flap misses the point

The two companies have been dueling over which one has the real Windows Phone 8 device. Their time would be better spent figuring out how to survive against Android devices and Apple's iPhone 5.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

HTC and Nokia are like two 120-pound weaklings bickering over which one will be first in line to be pounded by King Kong.


The two companies have been dueling over which smartphone maker has the real Windows Phone 8 device. Their time would be better spent figuring out how to survive against Android devices and Apple's iPhone 5.

In other words, the HTC and Nokia Windows 8 bake-off---laid out nicely by CNET's Jessica Dolcourt---borders on comical. Why? Both smartphone makers are screwed.

We'll let Morgan Stanley analyst Jasmine Hu elaborate:

We think the smartphone battlefield has shifted from technology to scale, marketing and branding, which might affect consumers’ behavior in choosing their next phone, based on past user experience. Given its lack of upgradeability and limited differentiations (or less superior if comparing total apps of ~100k+ to Android’s 500k+ and iOS’s 650k+), vs Android and iOS, whether Windows 8 could regain the traction among consumers remains to be seen...The intensifying competition from the upcoming iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note II may cast a shadow on the growth outlook of HTC’s new smartphones in next few quarters.

You could cut and paste Nokia for HTC and that paragraph would still hold.

The reality here is that HTC and Nokia are bickering over which company is the real Windows 8 phone, but the reality is Samsung is likely to be a more valuable partner to Microsoft's mobile ambitions.

Foley: HTC's Windows Phone 8 devices: An initial pleasant surprise | Miller: HTC and Microsoft reveal new Windows Phone 8 products; the 8X and 8S | Kendrick: Windows Phone 8X by HTC: Full specs | Woods: HTC outs first Windows Phone 8 devices: Photos

Repeat after me: Scale, marketing and branding. HTC just doesn't have it. Nokia used to have all three. Today those qualities are debatable for Nokia. The smartphone market in the U.S. is saturated and will become saturated in Europe and Asia in the not too distant future. Is there really room for HTC, Nokia and Samsung in the Windows Phone 8 device race (assuming Microsoft's branding gives the mobile OS a push)? Probably not. As a result, you'd have to place your Windows Phone bets on Samsung. Nokia lacks the U.S. clout and is losing ground around the world.

That's why analysts are as dismissive of HTC and its Windows Phone 8 devices as they were of Nokia.

Macquarie analyst Daniel Chang said:

Due to Microsoft’s tight control of OS/UI/specs, Windows Phone 8 smartphone makers can only try to differentiate their Windows Phones in hardware spec and design. Unfortunately, after a few boom years, all smartphone makers have been able to adopt high spec components for their phones. HTC tries to differentiate itself from peers by using external feature design such as audio (Beats) or external cases. However, we find little differentiation here. We believe Windows Phone 8 competition will be based purely on branding, cost, channel and MSFT’s support. All things considered, we think Nokia has an advantage over HTC, except HTC has stronger recognition in the U.S.; but we don’t think Windows Phone 8 can be a game-changer for HTC or Nokia.

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