Nokia kicked off this year’s MWC by assuring everyone that its “third ecosystem” strategy was going great guns – and so are all its other ecosystems.
“One year ago, we outlined our new strategy and gave a clear direction of where we were going,” Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said at a launch event at the Mobile World Congress Monday. “It’s been a very challenging year, but a very amazing one.”
Elop said the Windows Marketplace has grown to 65,000 apps, while Nokia’s Windows-powered Lumia 710 and 800 smartphones are now selling in 31 markets with 50 operators. Elop added that Lumia has proven popular in markets Russia, Indonesia and Singapore.
However, Elop also talked up Nokia’s other platforms, saying that the company is seeing 13 million downloads a day across all platforms and content types, including S40 and Symbian. “Downloads are up 250%, and 30% of total downloads are for Series 40, up from 12% a year ago.”
Elop vowed to continue expanding the ecosystem, roll out new products, and develop its location-based abilities of new devices, apps and services.
That will also include a greater push towards lower-range Windows-powered devices, said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Division.
“Microsoft will make Windows Phone available for phones with lower system requirements, which will bring the high-end smartphone experience to more affordable devices and expand the addressable market 60%,” Myerson said at the same event.
On the device front, Nokia unveiled two new Lumia handsets coming in Q2 – a DC-HSPA version of the high-end Lumia 900, and the new Lumia 610, aimed at the youth market with emphasis on social networking, LBS and gaming (especially Microsoft’s Xbox Live) at a mid-range price of 189 euros.
Jo Marlowe, Nokia’s executive VP of smart devices, said that Nokia bring Lumia to China in the coming months for CDMA and W-CDMA.
Meanwhile, while everyone’s waiting for Windows Phone to appear on lower-range devices, Nokia unveiled three new S40 handsets for its low-range Asha line: the 202 and 203 – both of which feature Nokia Life (a new version of Life Tools) and 40 free games from EA – and the Asha 302, which sports browser support for web apps and an S40 version of Microsoft Exchange for business users.
Last but not least, Nokia announced its latest device for Symbian Belle – the 808 PureView, the highlights of which are Dolby Digital Plus and a camera with a 41MP sensor.
What all this means for Nokia’s aspirations to get back in the smartphone game remains to be seen, of course. The good news is that the latest figures from Strategy Analytics claims Windows Phone shipments grew 36% quarter-on-quarter to 2.7 million units in Q4 2011, and that Nokia was the top vendor on Microsoft’s books for the first time during the period, accounting for a third of sales.
As for Monday’s handset launches, Ovum analyst Tony Cripps said of the Lumia 610: “The combination of Nokia, Microsoft, an aggressively marketed mid-range Windows Phone device, and an appealing array of Nokia developed applications looks strong on paper. However, should the offering fail to kick-start demand, both companies’ hopes for renewed relevance in the smartphone market will be seriously dented.”
Cripps added that while the PureView is sure to appeal to specialist buyers, putting that kind of camera functionality in a Symbian phone might backfire.
“Ovum’s main concern is that the PureView 808’s Symbian Belle operating system might detract from its appeal to a broader market, where it deserves recognition. It’s a pity that Nokia was unable to combine the photographic prowess of the PureView 808 with the style of the Lumia 900. Such a device may well have been the first smartphone to truly deserve the title of ‘superphone’.”