Nokia, AT&T launch the Lumia 900 amid few lines, strong buzz

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) launched the flagship Lumia 900 Windows Phone smartphone Sunday to few lines--since many stores were closed for Easter--but the device has generated a great deal of buzz online.

Click here for video from Nokia's Times Square event with Nicki Minaj

AT&T and Nokia kicked off the weekend of promotions for the device Friday night with a performance by pop star Nicki Minaj in Times Square in New York City. The performance featured use of nine of Times Square's electronic boards to capture crowd reaction and a giant LED display. The companies also launched a one-minute ad featuring Saturday Night Live alumnus Chris Parnell telling people that the "smartphone beta test" is now over that the Lumia 900 has gone on sale. AT&T is selling the device for $99.99 with a two-year contract.

Despite the blow-out promotional display, few AT&T stores were open Sunday because of the Easter holiday. The New York Times contacted AT&T stores within five miles of Times Square on Sunday around noon, and found that 18 of them played an automated message saying they were closed, 19 stores that were authorized AT&T resellers did not answer, and two AT&T resellers that were open said they did not have the Lumia 900.

However, the Lumia 900 has flown to the top of Amazon's best sellers list. The device is beating the likes of Motorola Mobility's (NYSE:MMI) Droid Razr Maxx and Samsung's Galaxy Nexus on the Amazon list. Nokia and its partner Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) clearly have a lot riding on the launch. AT&T has said its marketing blitz for the Lumia 900 will be its largest ever for a smartphone, eclipsing even the iPhone. According to Ad Age, which did not cite its sources, AT&T will spend $150 million over the next few months to promote the Lumia 900.

An AT&T spokeswoman declined to comment on how sales performed Sunday. Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak also did not provide any specific sales figures but said the companies have "seen a lot of interest and excitement."

Nowak also explained why the Lumia 900 was launched on Easter Sunday. He said AT&T always "remerchandises" its stores for new devices on Sundays, and that AT&T's promotional window for the spring started this past Sunday. He said the fact that AT&T is promoting the phone heavily in its spring launch window is more important than the date of the launch.

"This is a long-term commitment," he told FierceWireless. "This phone is going to be on the market for a long time. For it to be successful, this is the window we wanted it to be in."

For more:
- see this NYT blog post
- see this AlllThingsD article
- see this Engadget article
- see this Fortune article
- see this CNET article
- see this TechCrunch post

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