There's no doubt that Nokia is fighting hard to regain ground through the smartphone market - the most exciting segment in the overall handheld space. Fierce competition from Samsung and Apple has taken a bite out of the company’s overall share of handheld sales both in the United States and worldwide.
According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, Samsung has surpassed Nokia in global market share for handhelds with 25.7% going to Samsung and 23.1% to Nokia. Apple is still far behind in overall market share with 7.2%. Both Samsung and Nokia sell a range of handhelds, including feature phones, a segment in which Apple has no offering.
It’s due to a shift in interest away from feature phones that both Apple and Samsung have seen the biggest gains, leaving Nokia struggling to keep a foothold in the fast-growing smartphone market. Alex Spektor of Strategy Analytics comments in his blog that "Nokia’s Windows Lumia family of smartphones has made a relatively encouraging start, but shipments are not yet high enough to offset rapidly fading volumes for its Symbian platform."
Nokia’s 2011 decision to drop Symbian in favor of Microsoft’s operating system has linked the destiny of the Finnish company to the success of Windows as a platform for smartphones. So far it’s been a game of catch up, with Nokia going so far as to work alongside sales staff at partner carriers to help point out to customers the advantages of Lumia over rival Android and iPhone devices.
Now Nokia is accelerating its offering. According to a Bloomberg report, unnamed sources have revealed plans to announce Windows Phone 8 (WP8) based handhelds before the Sept. 12 launch of the next version of iPhone. This move may put doubt in the minds of potential buyers of iPhone 5, but unless Microsoft can speed up its release of WP8, Nokia will continue to flounder. So far Microsoft hasn’t committed to any dates for availability of the new operating system, which will be based on the same kernel source code as the desktop version of the new Windows 8, and which will include better security and MDM support.
The fledgling Nokia-Microsoft partnership has had trouble getting off the ground, with the two companies seemingly unable to get their release schedules and announcements into the same lockstep enjoyed by the hugely successful Intel-Microsoft alliance. Nokia released the WP7-based Lumia 900 and 710 earlier this year, but Microsoft is saying WP7 will not be upgradable to WP8, leaving the two Nokia devices on a dead end road.
Both Nokia and Microsoft have a long history of winning gold in their respective markets, but paradigms have shifted, with the young and fresh pushing out the old and stodgy. High-tech has never left time for past winners to rest on their laurels, so unless the two companies can work together as a team, both will have to fight hard even to win the bronze medal in the U.S. smartphone market.