With the launch of the Lumia 925 “Catwalk,” Nokia has only further cemented itself as one of the elite industrial designers of modern smartphones. Perhaps only Apple (and now, HTC?) puts more care into the form and function of its products than the proud Finnish manufacturer — which is why it’s a pity, frankly, to see these beautiful handsets sit unsold, while cookie-cutter, plastic-fantastic, budget Android phones fly off the shelves. Windows Phone is a fine — in many ways, superior — operating system, but it is not what Nokia needs right now. Nokia needs Android.
The fact is, Nokia is now pushing out the vast majority of Windows Phones. You can look at that two ways: either Windows Phone lovers vastly prefer Nokia to the handful of other OEMs (certainly a possibility), or — as I suspect — most of Nokia’s sales are to Nokia fans, who adopt Microsoft’s platform out of necessity.
If this latter supposition is in fact empirically accurate, then Nokia is really shooting itself in the foot by (sorry to frame it this way, WP fans) propping up a marginally popular OS at the expense of its own market share and financial health. Because of an agreement and a very risky, “no-plan-B” strategy employed by Nokia management, the company now finds itself trying to sell hardware in spite of the software it runs, not because of it.
The company does what it can with feature-laden exclusives and add-ons, but (again, sorry here) it is starting to feel akin to painting lipstick on a pig (and I only mean that with respect to WP’s relative popularity, not the quality or features of the platform itself).
If Espoo wants to return to its former glory, as one of — if not the most — preeminent telecommunications leaders in the world, it needs to give the public what it wants to buy. And right now, the public wants to buy Android-powered devices, from huge phablets to even bigger tablets to forgettable entry-level handsets.
But they also want their Android wrapped in something beautiful, and that is where Nokia comes in. Match up the company’s design language, manufacturing prowess, and photographic cred, with the popularity, flexibility, and ready support of the Android platform, and suddenly you have phones that are nearly irresistible to many people with Samsung/LG fatigue.
Nokia’s had over two years now to implement its Windows Phone strategy, and while that time has produced some of the greatest handsets the industry has ever known, sales have not followed suit. At the end of the day, Nokia needs to look out for Nokia, not for Microsoft (unless Microsoft buys all or part of Nokia, which might not be a bad idea at all). At this point in the game, that probably means some unpopular decisions and uncomfortable conversations.