Everyone has a favourite Nokia phone. It doesn’t matter if you back the friendly Nokia 5110 or the feature-rich Nokia N95, somewhere lodged in your memory lies a Nokia smartphone that brings about a sense of nostalgia.
Microsoft's global head of experiences marketing, Ifi Majid, is a fan of the 6110. The managing director of Microsoft Devices in Australia, Steve Lewis, prefers the 8210. Though it doesn’t matter who you ask, they’ll retort with a Nokia phone they call their favourite.
And that’s why the news of Microsoft retiring the Nokia brand is a tough pill to swallow, even if the writing has been on the wall for some time. Industry watchers forewarned this will happen when Microsoft acquired Nokia for $AU8 billion more than a year ago.
Microsoft has since done enough groundwork to accelerate ‘the transition’, as the company aims to capitalise on the launch of its upcoming operating system.
“We don’t want it to be a big launch. It will be a gradual transition,” Majid said during an interview with Good Gear Guide.
“Usage of the brand goes back to Nokia on the smartphone space in 2016. That timeline is what we set ourselves for the transition. It’s going to happen sooner with all the excitement around Windows 10.”
Phasing out the brand has to be done in stages as Nokia phones continue to sell in retail outlets scattered across the globe. The current range of smartphones continues to adorn the Nokia badge, with the yet-to-be-released Lumia 830 expected to be the last of Nokia’s kind.
Microsoft decided to drop the brand from its smartphones after market research revealed it had lost its cachet.
“When we tested Nokia as a smartphone preposition, we were expecting the preference to be high. But what we found was a lot people saying ‘I used to have a Nokia, and it was really important for me, but actually, you’re not that relevant in the smartphone space,” said Majid.
“It was kind of a little bit sobering to see this, unfortunately.”
Microsoft has decided to go with the Lumia brand instead, using it as the connecting tissue linking Nokia’s heritage to Microsoft’s identity.
Nokia’s brand will be kept for feature phones sold in developing countries, the kind that run on 2G only and cost less than $50. Australia’s adoption of smartphones all but guarantees these phones will never reach our shores.
The dawn of Microsoft Lumia
Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia turned the software partner into a smartphone rival overnight. Microsoft now competes against Windows Phone smartphones from companies such as Samsung and HTC.
“We want to have the best Microsoft experiences on our devices.
“I wouldn’t say we’re a competitor necessarily. We’re just leading the ecosystem in showing what we believe is right and what you can actually do with Microsoft hardware and services. What we do is raise the bar overall.”
Competing against its partners is a tough balancing act Microsoft needs to pull off if its Windows Phone platform is to gain market share. Research firm Kantar estimates Microsoft holds five per cent of the Australian market, which is well behind Android’s 64 per cent and Apple’s 29 per cent.
Upcoming Microsoft Lumia smartphones will retain Nokia’s camera software exclusively. Critics have lauded the quality of Nokia’s camera, and in an age where cameras are being used to differentiate smartphones, this gives Microsoft a distinct advantage.
Microsoft’s upcoming range will target customers who use their smartphones for both personal and work purposes. Microsoft Lumia smartphones will leverage the company’s portfolio of services, including One Drive, Office 365 and Skype, in an effort to win over the growing BYOD market.
Technologies will be sourced from entertainment divisions within Microsoft.
“We’re looking at new interaction models as well. We’re thinking about bringing some things from Xbox, such as voice control and gesture control as new developments,” said Majid.
The Xbox gaming console has already influenced Windows Phone smartphones with the recent release of Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant, which rivals Google’s Voice Search and Apple’s Siri.
Microsoft will continue to push updates to existing Nokia Lumia customers, said Majid.
No date was given on the release of the first Microsoft Lumia smartphone. Microsoft can only hope its smartphones remain as memorable as those from Nokia.