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Windows Phone 8 earns mantle as third ecosystem thanks to Nokia 920

Nokia?s new smartphones built on the Windows Phone 8 operating system were launched yesterday with some unique features and a list of partners that includes AT&T, Groupon and Rovio, helping to ensure Windows Phone 8's position as the third mobile ecosystem going forward.

Any smartphone is only as good as its ecosystem, meaning Nokia?s new Lumia 920 could get a boost from the support provided by exclusives with several apps that consumers are eager to have. The device also boasts features such as built-in wireless charging, a high-quality camera, built-in NFC and augmented reality for maps.

?Nokia is trying to position itself as having the best camera, making it distinct from Apple and Android, which don?t emphasize that part of the technology,? said Wally Swain, senior vice president of research at Yankee Group, Boston. ? The question is does that positioning give it broad appeal.

?I think the Nokia device has some unique software, things associated with photos and locations and to a certain extent the music app that they have that coming out of the box are going to be different,? he said.

?This solidly establishes Windows Phone 8 as a third ecosystem with devices that are a lot more attractive than BlackBerry.?

Head-to-head with Samsung
The new devices introduced by Nokia include the flagship 920 and a mid-range 820 that has fewer features. Nokia said theywill enter select markets in the fourth quarter and will be available from AT&T.

Nokia has a lot riding on these devices.

While initial shipment figures for previous Lumia devices have been promising - although not exactly setting the world on fire - the company?s second quarter results showed that its mobile phone sales otherwise are declining and it is losing money. Nokia?s partnership with Microsoft for Windows Phone devices needs to start paying off very soon if the company is to offset these losses.

Samsung, which is riding the success of its Galaxy S III Android phones, introduced its own Windows Phone 8 devices last week, meaning that one of the challenges now facing Nokia is differentiating its Windows Phone 8 products.

?How much of the appeal of the device is uniquely Nokia and how much is to due to the appeal of Windows Phone 8, which has a lot of features that are quite different from what else is out there,? Mr. Swain said.

?Samsung and Nokia are going to be pretty head to head because the star of the show is going to be Windows Phone 8,? he said.

Marketing might
To a certain degree, the relative success of each device is going to be dependent on the marketing muscle behind it. This is where Nokia?s partnership with Microsoft could benefit the OEM.

Microsoft has high hopes for Windows Phone to compete against iOS and Android and is allocating significant marketing resources to it.

Nokia?s partnerships with app developers could also help build an ecosystem that attracts consumers.

The apps that will be available for the new Lumia devices include The World of Red Bull, which is exclusive for 9 months and lets users pin their favorite Red Bull athletes to the home screen for live news updates; Vimeo, exclusive for three months, which will enable users to capture HD video using the phone?s camera optics and PureView technology, and Angry Birds Roost, exclusive for three months, which is the latest entry from the popular mobile gaming franchise.

Others apps include Bloomberg Hub, exclusive for three months, Groupon with augmented reality, exclusive for six months, YouSendIt with NFC features, exclusive for three months and Micheline with NFC features, exclusive for six months.

Additionally, Nokia has announced partnerships with Virgin Atlantic and coffee house chain The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to introduce wireless charging in various locations.

Carriers? key role
Nokia also said the phone will be available on AT&T. In comparison, Samsung did not mention any operators when it announced its Windows Phone 8 line last week.

In the U.S. market, the support of the wireless networks plays a key role in the success of handsets.

?In the U.S., Nokia?s success is very highly dependent on how heavily AT&T and other operators put their leverage behind it,? Mr. Swain said. ?What is the subsidy going to be ? that is going to be completely different for the two devices.

?It has to do with the operators themselves making a bet that there is going to be sufficient difference in price and marketing for Windows Phone 8 that will give them a solid second or third alternative in their portfolios,? he said.

?It all depends on whether or not the interface and the new devices get some early momentum through operator distribution channels in the U.S.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York