Nokia's Elop: 'Special' partnership with Microsoft on track, despite worries

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said the handset maker's relationship with Microsoft remains "special" and unchanged despite the software company boosting its Windows Phone 8 partnership deals with other handset vendors.

"They're not sitting in the priority meetings that we're sitting in," Elop told a Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecoms conference Wednesday in Barcelona, according to Reuters. Microsoft will jointly market HTC's first two Windows Phone 8 devices, the Windows Phone 8X and 8S.

Analysts claim that Nokia could find that Microsoft will turn into a rival in the future if Microsoft releases its own branded smartphone. Microsoft is working with Asian component suppliers on its own smartphone design but has not decided if it will go into mass production, according to a report earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal.

Separately, signs are appearing that Nokia's new Lumia 920 and 820 smartphone models are being received well as the first shipments enter the market. Retail staff with SFR have become more confident in explaining Windows Phones to their customers, Laurent Lame, devices marketing chief with SFR, told Reuters.

"They know the product better after six months of good sales of the Lumia 610," Lame said, adding he was now more optimistic about the Nokia-Microsoft partnership. "For once, with Windows 8, we are not starting from zero."

O2 Germany CEO Rene Schuster said he was "very, very pleased" with the early progress of Lumia sales, according to Reuters.

Michael Schroder, an analyst with the Finnish investment bank FIM Securities, predicted that Nokia will sell 1 million to 3 million of the new Lumia models this quarter. It sold 2.9 million older Lumia models in the third quarter, compared to Apple's sales of around 26.6 million iPhones in the same period. "In any case the uptake will not be massive," he predicted.

However, Schroder warned: "This is absolutely a make-or-break phone for the Windows Phone strategy. If it fails, they have to take a whole new course."

Gartner has also revealed that Nokia slipped from the world's No. 3 smartphone maker in the second quarter of 2012 to No. 7 in smartphone sales in the third quarter. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion moved to the third spot with HTC not far behind, at No. 4 "Both HTC and RIM have seen their sales declining in past few quarters, and the challenges might prevent them from holding on to their current rankings in coming quarters," Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article
- see this Gartner release

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