As Telecom launches three Windows Phone 8 handsets, CEO mulls switch from iPhone
UPDATE: The Nokia Lumia 920 will cost $999 and be available from November 23, in black only (overseas markets also get bright yellow and red - which NBR briefly pawed today, pictured right). Contract pricing won't be released until November 23. HTC 8S will be available in Decmeber for $499; the Samsung ATIV S around February for $799.
This afternoon, Telecom will announce three new smartphones based on Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 software: the Nokia Lumia 920 (a beautiful phone with frills like wireless recharging), the Samsung ATIV S and the HTC 8S.
(Vodafone and 2degrees have also made positive noises and promised Windows Phone 8 handsets by Christmas, but have yet to detail which handsets they'll range. I did have to prod them for comment - a change from Apple and the a lot of Android gear, when it's hard to shut them up. Hopefully all or nearly all the Windows Phone 8 handsets will be available across Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees rather than ghettoised to individual carrer - great for the phone company, bad for Microsoft.)
The 4.5-inch Lumia 920 is Nokia's flagship phone. Mobile developer Ben Gracewood was one of the first New Zealander's to get his hands on one (Stateside). Read Ben's review here. Apart from being a tad heavy it looks like a very elegant piece of enginnering. My main worry is that some big name apps are still not available for Windows Phone 8 handsets - think, Instagram, Letterpress and (surprisingly given Microsoft now owns it) Skype [UPDATE: a public beta or test version of Skype for Windows Phone 8 is now available. Two early adopters have told NBR it's stable.]
Samsung's 4.8-inch ATIV S is also top-of-the line (see an exhaustive Engadget's review here). But the HTC 8S is a second tier model (read a CNET review here). It'll be interesting to see where the Taiwanese hanset maker's showpony HTC 8X turns up.
Nokia also has a cheaper Windows Phone 8 handset, the 4.3-inch display Nokia 820 (which also has a lower resolution - 480 by 800 pixels to the 920's 1280 by 768) . There's no word on when or where that model will turn up yet.
A couple of interesting bits of intel ahead of this afternoon's launch:
1. I think a CEO's personal choices at least partly inform their company's strategy, and that includes handsets. Paul Reynolds was an Apple man, though also carried a Samsung Galaxy S II, which he was quick to show off to press and analysts as Telecom made a big Android push. I never heard him mention Microsoft in the context of smartphones.
Meeting Simon Moutter last week, I asked him about his person phone. He said he used an iPhone 4S. I haven’t got around to upgrading to the 5 yet, and I have to say having seen that fantastic new Windows proposition I’m interested – I may well give it a go actually rather than stick down the Apple path."
2. Microsoft NZ boss Paul Muckleston had personally pitched Windows Phone 8 and the company's new Surface tablets to the Telecom CEO.
As ever, smartphone wars are as much about marketing muscle and telco politics as technology, so it's good to see Muckleston wading in.
A smartphone, tablet and laptop in Samsung's ATIV range graphically illustrates how closely related versions of Windows 8 run across different devices. Icons and the Start menu are out, sliding tiles and (when supported by your device) touch are in. Click to zoom.
Intrigued by PC-replacement potential
Moutter said while some of his team at Auckland Airport had iPads, he only ever used his for home.
In his new role, he has used his iPad for business, but also found it fiddly and frustrating for some tasks like adding an attachment to an email.
Handsets running Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 software, and Microsoft's own Surface tablet, looked like they could be more business-capable, Moutter said. "I'm sort of intrigued, it was impressive."
Microsoft's first version of its tablet, the low-cost Surface RT, is not available here, and Microsoft NZ is not sure when it will arrive. It will be followed by the Surface Pro, running Windows 8, which will launch in the New Year. Moutter was open to the Microsoft speil that the more powerful Surface Pro (whose optional cover contains a built-in keyboard, and which will be dockable to a monitor) will be a full-blooded PC replacement.
Moutter mulls that a Surface Pro could allow him to cut down on devices, doing away with his iPad and laptop.
Good to see challenge to monopoly
We'll have to see. And we'll have to see how much of a push Telecom gives Windows Phone 8 when all the arm wrestling over co-op marketing and so forth is said and done. It will be a long, long haul for Microsoft to winover a public that's become so accustomed to Apple and Android. Still, at Telecom at least, Microsoft is back on the radar.
And Moutter says he's pleased to see it there. There's a little enlightened self-interest at play.
"You don’t want global monopolies appearing on device lineups," the new Telecom boss told NBR.
"Apple’s done an impressive job, clearly, at building a fantastic preferential product that people love. But I’m very pleased to see the Samsungs and the Microsofts coming on hard too because you don’t want to end up creating new monopolies in the device world."