Smart Phones Get a Brain

By William Claney

The 2012 CES (Consumer Electronics Show – Las Vegas, NV.) had two standout electronic marvels one was the ultra slim notebook that we explored last time and the other is a new smarter smart phone made by Nokia and running a Microsoft Windows operating system. The Nokia Lumia 800 won best of show, and accolades from attendees, this year and it bested more than two thousand products on display.

Nokia is still the world leader in the phone handset business (just a phone with some features) but has lagged sorely behind Apple and Android in the smart phone business (a phone with Internet access, etc.), but that’s about to change. Apple is the current market leader in the US market but Nokia still outsells them in shear numbers of handsets worldwide. Nokia has about 29% of the world market share of phones, with Apple half that. Apple still dominates the apps business and Android is apps strong, however, Nokia is gaining ground on apps fast, very fast and may overtake Android by the end of this year. I’ve never seen anything like it from nearly zero apps to 50,000 in just over one year.

About a year ago Nokia and Microsoft teamed up to push the Windows 7.5 Mango operating system (OS) as a replacement to Nokia’s home grown OS. The Nokia chief executive, Steven Elop, was an executive at Microsoft before being drafted by Nokia as its new CEO so he knows first hand what Microsoft is capable of in the OS field. Don’t doubt this.

The new OS, known as Windows Mango, is a tile based visual view of all important functions of the phone. For example, rather than pages of icons reporting on phone calls, several icons for music, games and programs one tile tells you that phone calls have been received, music is available, and games are in progress. Touch the tile and up pops a list of your important events. That means rather than separate icons for each program the tile summarizes the activities within the group and reports it to the main page. This is much faster than using tiles, and gives you a summary of your activities. Important for a phone especially if you’re totally hooked on information and check your phone activity frequently.

Mango is also a forerunner of the newest computer OS known as Windows 8. When Windows 8 is released later this year it will integrate into the smart phone business, meaning what you see and do on one device, like the smart phone, you will be able to see and do on the other device, like the computer. So, one operating system for both means the beginning of a unique ecosystem. By the way, the ecosystem is the holy grail of the smart phone business. Think of Amazon offering the Fire to sell books, the iPad to sell music, etc.

It is my most intense recommendation if you’re a Microsoft user for your business to get in line for this product and prepare your computer systems and networks for Windows 8. I can’t make this point more clear, get your plans in place now. An informed IT tech should be able to help you make a plan to migrate your business to this new reality.

Now for the best part, price. Nokia has always been known as a leader for low cost extremely high quality hand sets. While Nokia’s offerings are not yet fully capable of some of Apple’s coolest features, or Androids hype, they make up in price and a rapidly growing list of features and apps. T-Mobil is offering the Nokia Lumia 710 at $49.99 and Wal-Mart has it for free with a two year commitment. This price point for a smart phone is a clear winner.

New entries on the low end will be the Lumia 610 (working name) and on the high end to compete with the best in the world the Lumia 900.

In conclusion, smart phones are getting smarter. They are beginning to consolidate the world of operating systems so work on one platform is compatible with work on another. This is something Microsoft does best, wait for the market to develop, then dominate it. RIM and to some extent Android are dead or dead-end platforms. Only Apple and Microsoft will survive.