Nokia's been badly burned by Windows Phone 8

21 Jun 2012

Poor, poor Nokia. Already caught in a terrifying tailspin of falling sales and heavy financial losses, the company now faces the prospect of – once again - having nothing to sell but obsolete handsets for the next few months.

When Nokia leapt off its infamous “burning platform” and into the arms of Microsoft, it knew the fall would be unpleasant. After announcing its intention to move to Windows Phone in February 2011, it took nine months for Nokia's first Windows Phone device to arrive, in the shape of the Lumia 800.

That gave the company three quarters of a year with nothing to sell but outdated handsets, running an operating system its own CEO had publicly derided as sub-standard. The consequences were all too apparent in Nokia’s first annual loss in living memory – and tens of thousands of job losses.

Who in their right mind is going to buy a Nokia Lumia handset today in the knowledge that a better operating system is coming along in a few months’ time, which they can’t upgrade to?

Now, Nokia finds itself in the same leaking boat again. Microsoft’s decision to shift Windows Phone 8 to the Windows NT core, with no upgrade path for current Windows Phone 7 handsets, leaves the company sitting on piles of soon-to-be obsolete handsets. Yes, Microsoft will throw a sop to old handset owners in the form of Windows Phone 7.8, but nobody knows quite how many Windows Phone 8 features and UI elements it will contain – nor how long Microsoft will continue to support it.

Compare and contrast to Apple, a company often rightly criticised for leaving customers behind with aggressive upgrade cycles. An iPhone 3GS released in July 2009 will still get the iOS 6 upgrade released later this year; a Nokia Lumia 900 released this spring will be outdated by the autumn.

Sure, all those Nokia handsets already in people’s pockets won’t become bad handsets overnight, just because Microsoft has released a better operating system. But who in their right mind is going to buy a Nokia Lumia handset today in the knowledge that a better operating system is coming along in a few months’ time, which they can’t upgrade to? And with apps that aren't, by default, backwards compatible with the old 7.x handsets?

Nokia’s still standing on that burning platform, and the flames are getting ever higher.

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