Nokia is pushing the development of its Windows Phone handsets, hoping to release at least one device this year, but the company suggests that significant numbers won’t be shipped before 2012.
The Espoo, Finland-based company has access to exclusive functionality in Windows, according to people familiar with the matter, which could debut in second-generation Nokia Windows phones launched in February. There were no details on what that functionality might be.
The push to get at least one Nokia Windows phone out this year is perhaps the least of the challenges facing the company. With Symbian effectively abandoned despite a lingering phone launch or two, Nokia is not only under pressure to launch a Windows Phone quickly, but it must ensure that the new handset performs flawlessly or risk a damaging humiliation.
Despite the company’s hardware expertise, a perfect launch is far from a lock. The young Windows Phone 7 has suffered some high-profile bugs, including accidental data charges and a botched update that complicated the problem. Sales of the Microsoft OS even started to slow by January.
Meanwhile the competition will essentially have the market to itself, despite Nokia’s plan to launch several Symbian smartphones this year. And the competition is not standing still, with both Android and Apple surging ahead in sales and Research In Motion determined to staunch losses and make a comeback.
The partnership between Nokia and Microsoft is something of a Hail Mary pass for both partners, and certainly Nokia’s “leap from a burning platform,” according to Elop, in a memo leaked at the beginning of the year. The memo stated emphatically that the company must take radical action or risk becoming irrelevant.
Nokia had earlier considered partnering with Google, but decided it would be too difficult to differentiate its smartphones from a multitude of other Android devices made by the likes of Samsung and HTC. Some reports also suggested Microsoft offered a large cash bonus to sweeten the deal.