Nokia finally revealed its first Windows Phone 8 smartphones a few hours ago and they seem impressive. We were lucky enough to get to spend some brief time with both the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820, and I must say they have done a darn good job with the hardware. The 4.5-inch 1280 768 pixel display on the Lumia 920 is definitely among the best I have seen on a smartphone and the Lumia 820 (pictured above) is cute-looking with smooth curved edges. The rest of the hardware is equally impressive with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 silicon, a camera that Nokia claims is better than any on a smartphone this slim and everything else one would demand from a smartphone. But a big piece of puzzle is still missing. Also Read - Nokia Chennai plant employees to go on one-day hunger strike on March 31Also Read - Nokia Pro Camera app coming to Lumia 920, 925 and 928
The thing about tonight’s announcement is it was not exactly an announcement. It left most of us with more questions than answers that were provided at the event. Yes, the hardware seems exceptional but no one knows when they will be available and for how much. The only answer provided to us was they will be available sometime later this year in select markets. Which would be these ‘select’ markets? No one knows. Also Read - Leaked video shows Microsoft offering CalDAV and CardDAV support for Window Phone 8, restricted to Google accounts
The bigger and more crucial missing piece, however, is that no one really knows what Windows Phone 8 is all about. We expected Microsoft to show off what’s great about its new operating system but it chose to demonstrate the new homescreen with resizable tiles, the fact that people would be able to take screenshots and some camera features. These are not features that would make a potential buyer choose Nokia’s Lumia 920 over a Samsung Galaxy S III or the upcoming iPhone 5. What was required tonight was for Microsoft to show some features that blew people’s mind away. Features that were not available on other platforms that would give people a reason to wait.
There’s not a single day that passes when Android users crib that their latest smartphone does not run on the latest version of the operating system. And there is a good reason for that. These days a smartphone’s operating system is as important, if not more, as its hardware capabilities. You just cannot view the two separately, they are meant to be packaged together. Microsoft just managed to untie the two. Microsoft’s Windows Phone main man Joe Belfiore today said the company will reveal its operating system at a later date. When is that later date? Again, no one knows.
Considering these new Lumias will only be available in November in ‘select’ markets at an unknown price, I’m not sure how many people will actually wait it out over buying the iPhone 5 or one of the numerous new Android superphones. On the other hand, you would certainly know of people who have resisted the temptation of buying a Samsung Galaxy S III before they saw what the new iPhone had to offer. At least I do. And that announcement is happening next week and not the next couple of months.
By the time Microsoft is ready to show Windows Phone 8 and devices like the new Lumias hit store shelves, tonight’s announcement would have already been at least two months old. Nokia would have to refresh our collective memories about how cool its ‘new’ gear is but in our minds these phones would already be old. Not to mention our minds would have been “corrupted” by the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note II that would have already sold a few million units by then.
Nokia did everything right tonight and the hardware certainly rekindles a hope of the company’s revival. But I’m not sure whether Microsoft and Nokia are on the same page. Had they been, the two would have timed the announcement better. Either Microsoft would have revealed some key features of Windows Phone 8 tonight or Nokia would have announced the phones closer to launch, probably at the same time when Microsoft was ready to unveil the operating system. I really don’t know what Belfiore and Ballmer were doing at tonight’s event considering they had relatively little to show and tell.
One lesson that every vendor can learn from Apple is to announce a product when you can tell your potential buyers when, where and for how much it would be available. Samsung showed us it had learned its lesson when it announced the Galaxy S III in May this year. About time Nokia does that too. Unfortunately, it is no longer in a position to call the shots and Microsoft is directing the play. Its Windows Phone 8 strategy is closely tied to its Windows 8 operating system for PCs and tablets as it tries to show its “ecosystem” and hard sell its one platform for all story. Unfortunately, Nokia is not a part of the Windows 8 playbook yet, which is more important to Microsoft than Windows Phone 8. Will it be a price too big for Nokia to pay? Probably.