Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop went out on the stump for his company’s new handset product Lumia yesterday, in a bid to put his firm back at the forefront of the mobile phone sector. Lumia is the first mobile device to run on Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, and the tie-up between the two technology giants is a critical move in determining their future market presences. Users can charge the Lumia wirelessly just by placing it on a resting unit. The phone also runs a new-style, high-resolution camera system with a “floating lens” supported by springs that aims to provide smoother video-making results.
At a New York gala launch attended by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Elop called Lumia “beautifully different”, and “the world’s most innovative smartphone”. In order to deliver a competitive experience, he added, “Nokia needed to be part of an ecosystem, which meant giving people beautiful phones, while ensuring we delivered a wide range of services and applications that consumers expect today.”
Following an auspicious start to its handsets venture around 15 years ago, when its stylish, flip-screen phones featured in blockbuster action film The Matrix, Nokia progressively lost ground to smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Nokia shares were $40 five years ago – but are only $3 now. The Lumia marks a crucial point in Nokia’s history as it attempts to turn around the supertanker of its “left-behind” reputation and claw back valuable market share. The challenge is for Nokia to re-establish itself as a leader in a technological field that has quickly become synonymous with two dominant platforms.
As the software firm that has graced the Lumia with its operability, Microsoft also has a lot riding on the system. For the past decade, Apple computing products have defined themselves by user-friendliness to the point where consumers feel as though they have developed personal relationships with the firm – a factor that led to widespread public mourning over the death of Steve Jobs in October last year. Meanwhile, Microsoft has struggled to acquire the same cachet of flexibility, with many tech observers citing a lack of movement beyond traditional computers and laptops.
However, the launch was far from trouble free. Nokia was forced to apologise after it emerged that an apparent demo video to show the effectiveness of the floating lens was in fact made by a professional cameraman with a steadicam rig. In addition, criticism swirled around an absence of detail on exactly what the Windows software will enable consumers to experience, and Nokia’s failure to reveal the gadget’s retail price.
As a result of these slips, Nokia’s share price plunged by 14%.