Nokia 'restarts' with Windows phones, but faces challenges

Finnish giant replacing Symbian-platform hails new beginning, but will face challenges with Windows platform not taken off yet, analyst notes.

Nokia's new Windows phones are a good restart and attempt to adapt to the evolving smartphone market, but fall short of offering an "iPhone killer", according to market analysts. 

The Finnish phonemaker on Wednesday unveiled two new sleek Microsoft Windows phones, the high-end Lumia 800 and mid-range Lumia 710. CEO Stephen Flop said they represented the beginning of a new era for the company.

Elop added that the "minimalist design" and "superior navigational features" of the new phones would allow them to stand out among rival Windows phones, some of which had been faster to market with Microsoft's new Mango mobile platform.

Nick Dillon, a telecoms analyst at Ovum, said in a statement that replacing its own Symbian platform with Microsoft's signaled a restart for the handset manufacturer, which struggled to adjust to the new dynamics of the smartphone market following the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

With Microsoft's new mobile platform "yet to take off" and Nokia banking hopes on Windows Phone as its smartphone platform, the success of the device would be crticial to the future of both companies, Dillon said.

"The challenges which Nokia faces are significant--many potential Windows Phone customers will have already bought an Android or iPhone and will have some form of attachment to those platforms," he said. "They will have invested in the platforms from a service, financial--via applications--and a familiarity perspective, and as such Nokia will have a challenge to convince them to switch to what is a largely unknown, and therefore, risky alternative."

However, considering that Nokia had very little, or no input into the Mango release of Windows Phone, the company has "done well" to differentiate its devices against those from other Windows Phone licensees, the Ovum analyst pointed out.

The Lumia 800 features Windows Phone's live icons on the homescreen which automatically update with news, weather and Facebook feeds. It also comes with free navigation and Microsoft's new IE9 browser, and will sell for about 420 euros (US$584), excluding taxes and subsidies, putting it in the same bracket as Apple's iPhone and Samsung's top Galaxy phones. Lumia 710 will sell for 270 euros (US$375).