With the introduction of its critically acclaimed Lumia 900, Nokia Corp. has set the stage to regain some of its lost smartphone market share—and to re-establish Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone as a leading contender in the cellphone operating system (OS) business.
Largely based on Nokia’s strong support, Windows Phone is set to regain the No. 2 rank in the smartphone operating system in 2015. Finnish-based Nokia in 2009 lost its second-place worldwide ranking because of rising competition from Google Inc.’s Android and Apple Inc.’s iOS.
In 2015, however, Windows Phone will account for 16.7 percent of the smartphones shipped, up from less than 2 percent in 2011, according to the IHS iSuppli Mobile & Wireless Communications Service at information and analysis provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). This will allow Windows Phone to slightly surpass Apple’s iOS to retake the market’s second rank behind Android, as presented in the table below.
Meanwhile, Nokia stands to stem its plunge in smartphone market share.
Once the perennial leader in global smartphone shipments, Nokia by the second quarter of 2011 had fallen to the third rank in the market behind Samsung and Apple.
“One of the hottest new products unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show was the Lumia 900, a Windows Phone-based smartphone sporting a flashy set of features that makes it competitive with the best alternatives offered by the Android camp,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS. “This hot product represents Nokia’s first step to reclaim its market share. Combined with Nokia’s efforts to drive the development of the Windows Phone ecosystem, the Lumia 900 and its successors will help Microsoft to reclaim its No. 2 ranking in smartphone operating system market share in 2015.”
Coming to America
The Lumia 900’s flashy feature set, along with Nokia’s strategy for selling the product, shows that the company is targeting the North American region, a market that, even in the height of Nokia’s dominance, historically had been an Achilles’ heel for the company.
“The introduction of the Lumia 900 shows that Nokia believes the road back to smartphone dominance runs through North America,” said Francis Sideco, senior principal analyst for consumer and communications at IHS. “And the way to win North America is through its operator channels.”
The Lumia 900 was developed with North American market dynamics and smartphone users in mind, with the product having been designed in and launched first in the region—another departure from Nokia’s historical approach of repurposing devices designed in and for other parts of the world. The smartphone’s large 4.3-inch organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) touch screen display, 12-megapixel camera as well as partnerships with Rogers, Telus, AT&T and T-Mobile are concrete examples of Nokia executing on this strategy.
LTE to the Party
Another feature of the Lumia 900 also illustrates how serious Nokia is about addressing the North American market: its support of the high-speed Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G standard.
“In the past, Nokia always introduced new technologies in its home European market first,” Sideco said. “However, for the Lumia 900—Nokia’s first LTE phone—the company initially is rolling it out in North America. This demonstrates Nokia’s commitment to re-enter the region.”
Furthermore, Nokia is targeting the mobile network operator (MNO) channel to sell its phones in North America. Nokia previously eschewed the MNO approach, limiting its penetration into the region.
The company likewise is leveraging Microsoft’s business/enterprise sales channels to appeal to corporate customers in the region, offering value-added services in a play for the enterprise sector. Such moves will position Nokia to compete with Research In Motion Ltd., whose Blackberry phones are popular among corporate users.
Opening Windows of Opportunity
Although Nokia is not the only seller of Windows Phone smartphones, the company is expected to dominate the market, accounting for 50 percent of all Microsoft OS-based handsets sold in 2012, IHS iSuppli predicts. The company’s share then is set to rise to 62 percent in 2013. Nokia’s portion of the market will begin to decline in 2014, as other companies increase their sales of Windows Phone products.
Nonetheless, Nokia will drive the development and expansion of the Windows Phone market, opening up opportunities for other players, Lam said. “Because of Nokia’s support, apps developers will eagerly shore up the Windows platform. This will cause other makers of Windows Phone devices, such as Samsung and HTC, to offer more products supporting the OS—further expanding the market.”
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