Nokia senses opportunity with Windows Phone 8, but is getting grumpy enough with Microsoft that it is publicly complaining about the lack of support, upgrades and promotion. It’s usually a bad sign when your partner starts complaining out-loud.
Let's look at the track record. Windows Phone 7 was announced at Mobile World Congress on February 15, 2010, and released on November 8, 2010, in the United States. WP 7.5, a.k.a. Mango, came just seven months later in May 2011. A minor update called Tango came out later in the year, featuring bug fixes and lower resource requirements. Windows Phone 8, which threw out the old kernel and replaced it with the Windows NT kernel from the PC version of Windows 8, came out in October 29, 2012.
Ten months later, there have been minor bug fixes but no major updates. The total for Windows Phone applications stands at an unimpressive 146,000, far short of the 750,000 for Android and iPhone. Last week, Nokia reported record smartphone sales of 7.4 million. Compare that to 70 million for Samsung and 30 million for Apple in the same time period and it's nothing.
And Nokia is getting irritated. It senses momentum, but Microsoft is not helping. Nokia Vice President Bryan Biniak complained to Britain's The Inquirer:
"We are releasing new devices frequently and for every new device, if there is an app that somebody cares about that's not there that's a missed opportunity of a sale.
"We are trying to evolve the cultural thinking [at Microsoft] to say 'time is of the essence.' Waiting until the end of your fiscal year when you need to close your targets doesn't do us any good when I have phones to sell today."
Nokia has good reason to be cranky. It has put all its chips in Windows Phone and let its old phone platform, Symbian, die. "Our Symbian volumes decreased from 6 million units in the second quarter 2012 to approximately zero in the second quarter 2013," Nokia said in announcing the most recent quarter.
The company keeps releasing phones, there's no question about that. It launched the 520 for the low-end market, as well as the 1020, which is more of a DSLR camera that happens to make phone calls than it is a phone. The emphasis around the device is its 41-megapixel camera. Meanwhile, HTC is running ads for the HTC One, touting its unique interface that makes Android just a little less of a pain to use.
All told, Nokia has released 10 WP8 phones, but without apps, it's not meeting its potential. "People rely on applications for their day-to-day life and if you don't have something which I use in my day-to-day life I'm not going to switch [operating systems] because I don't want to compromise the way I live my life just to switch to a phone," said Biniak.
WP8 app support has been problematic, not the least of which is because developers counting on in-app ads weren't getting any. Back in April, developers began complaining that they were getting zero ads at all in their ad-based apps, bringing them no money, and there was no word from Microsoft. Whether that situation has cleared up is unclear, but you can bet that's no way to retain developers.