Beating Apple to the announcement may be best for Windows Phone 8

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Beating Apple to the announcement may be best for Windows Phone 8
This is a story that has been filtering out across the web for a couple days now, but there have been conflicting reports. We've sorted through, and here's what we expect to come in September with regard to Windows Phone 8. There are really two stories that have been reported: that Microsoft and Nokia will be unveiling Windows Phone 8 and launch devices in September, or that those devices will actually be released in September. 

The last we had heard about WP8 was that the launch itself was being delayed until November, just after the release of Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface tablet. Given that it was just leaked that Windows 8 and the Surface would be launching in late October, it seemed even less likely that Windows Phone would launch before that, and Nokia has steered people away from the idea that its September event will feature actual product announcements. Of course, we all know that Windows Phone 8 is coming, and it is relatively assured that Nokia will be the first manufacturer out of the gate with the flagship device for the new platform. And, the September 7th announcement, which seems to be about a store relauch, has nothing to do with Nokia World, which is happening September 5th and 6th. 

Announcement leapfrog

All we've seen so far from Microsoft is a developer preview of Windows Phone 8, not even the real consumer-targeted features that the platform will offer. So, we know that Microsoft still needs to do a proper announcement for Windows Phone 8 targeted at the general public, and Nokia World is a perfect place to do that. We certainly don't expect Nokia Windows Phone 8 devices will be released at Nokia World, but that doesn't mean we won't see them. 

Remember, the newest rumors have the next iPhone being announced and launching in mid-September and if there is anything that companies love to do these days, it's try to take the air out of an announcement. We saw it most recently with Google and Apple where Google announced its new 3D maps feature just 5 days before Apple showed off the same feature at its iOS 6 event. Every year, Apple announces something just after CES, which is an event that has become overrun with Android news in the last couple years. It's just the way to play the game really, and we expect Microsoft to play that game right along with everyone else. 

If it is true that the next iPhone is to be announced on September 12th, that puts Nokia World one week before Apple's big event. We said we don't expect products to be released to consumers at the Nokia World event, but that doesn't mean that we won't see any releases at all. Given the timing of the event, we would be very surprised if Microsoft didn't announce Windows Phone 8 consumer features at the event, and at the very least have the RTM version of WP8 ready to go to manufacturers. 

That would definitely make for a pretty impressive announcement, especially if there are a couple Nokia handsets to show off at the event as well. The trouble is that it's unclear how much it will really matter overall. Jumping out ahead of Apple's event worked well for Google with its Maps announcement for two reasons: 1) Google is a more direct competitor in mobile right now, 2) Google knew that it could not only announce first, but ship first. We've already seen Google's 3D Maps hit Android in the proper Google Maps app, and it has even come to iOS as part of Google Earth, while iOS 6 won't be released for at least a month and a half. 

Microsoft doesn't have that luxury. Announcing first doesn't help to put the product in the market faster, it just serves to take attention away from Apple, and attention is an extremely fickle thing. In general, attention doesn't go to the best thing, it goes to the established thing. So, even if Microsoft can show off something incredible at Nokia World, that doesn't change the fact that Windows Phone holds an extremely small portion of the market, and Apple is still steering the biggest hype machine around. 

Making the announcement worth it

We already know what to expect from both Windows Phone 8 and iOS 6. As far as features go, there really isn't that much difference between any of the top mobile platforms (in no particular order - WP8, iOS, & Android - we use "top" in terms of platform quality, not market penetration). And, despite some slight differences in hardware specs, the only things that really matter are screen quality, battery life, and OS optimization. For the most part, hardware doesn't make that much difference, and all of the platforms can do mostly the same things out of the box. Android and Windows Phone have options for widgets/live tiles, and Apple has no answer for that, but otherwise it's all a matter of personal preference as to which platform you prefer. This also means that one killer feature can really swing things. That was Apple's aim with Siri, which worked enough to be the attention-grabbing feature in mobile for a while. If Google had a better marketing team, maybe it would be touting Google Now as the next big thing, but that kind of campaign is always hindered by Android's slow update cycle. So, Google will continue to push Hangouts (and by extension, Google+). 

Microsoft doesn't really have a killer feature for Windows Phone 8. Or, more accurately, Microsoft doesn't have a single killer app for WP8. Instead, Microsoft has the "shared core" idea, which will make it far easier for developers to port apps from Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 and back. This is what Microsoft needs to be pushing at Nokia World. What Microsoft needs to do is have a parade of software partners come across the stage showing what can be done when your phone can work so closely with the most widely used desktop OS around. 

We saw this a lot a couple years back. Apple routinely had software partners coming through for the iPad launch or an iOS announcement, showing off games and apps. Even Google attempted this to an extent during an announcement, but in general Google sticks with its own products. Microsoft needs to have a show of support from developers, and it needs to prove that the Windows Phone Marketplace is comparable to the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. There may not be any chance of the WP Marketplace gaining parity in the amount of apps, but as long as there is choice enough for the most common needs, that should be okay. We've mentioned before that in general there is choice enough in the Marketplace, but aside from games, it is still lacking in big developer support. 

If recent mockups are to be believed, the next iPhone won't really look much different from the last two. It seems that the back glass will be replaced by metal, and the screen will be lengthened just a bit, but otherwise, the iPhone will continue to look like an iPhone. If this is how it plays out, Nokia definitely has an opening to show off something memorable as the flagship Windows Phone 8 handset. Microsoft has proven it has good ideas when it comes to hardware design, judging from the recent Surface announcement, and Nokia has proven to at least be able to design something that stands out, as with the cyan Lumias.

Conclusion

It may sound like pretty basic logic, but if Microsoft and Nokia can announce something impressive, it may be able to steal some thunder from Apple. The trouble is that the bar is going to be set extremely high. It's been a long long time since Microsoft was the underdog, but Apple has a sizeable market share advantage, and it has the cultural cachet that has been built up by a combination of passionate fans and mass media covering those passionate fans. All Microsoft has is the name recognition, and a chance to really connect the desktop and mobile experiences.

There is still a fair chance that whatever Microsoft and Nokia show off will be forgotten the second Tim Cook takes the stage, but what if Microsoft did something a bit crazy, like offering a free copy of Windows 8 to anyone that buys a Windows Phone? Or, at the least, maybe a discount on a Windows 8 computer, or maybe swing it the other way around for a discount/free Windows Phone if you purchase a new Windows 8 machine. Microsoft needs to do something big, especially if it does choose to announce products two months before their release in an effort to get the jump on Apple. 

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34 Comments

1. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

I'm hoping for a discount deal, especially with the back-to-school season. Free Nokia Windows Phone with purchase of a Surface Pro, perhaps? I'm hoping Nokia can announce a strong flagship, something only a Galaxy S3 or OneX (or their later variants) could touch, and continue leaving iPhones in the dust. Keep it competitive, bug-free, price it right, and get it announced and in customers' hands ASAP

8. harley22x

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I could tell you for sure that I would buy a Surface Pro for a deal like that. Defiantly. Even if it was a... "Buy Surface RT and get Nokia WP8 device 50% off of (insert provider here) Windows Phone 8 phones."

24. xtplnet

Posts: 61; Member since: Mar 03, 2012

I guess , most lucarative deal will be , Nokia Lumia 1000 (WP 8 + screen size 4.6 Clear back display HD + Snapdragan S4 and most importent Nokia Pureview tech) and price tag of 99$ then ask apple to launch iPhone 5 !!! we will see who can sell million devices first :-)

29. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

dont think pureview will come that cheap its really high tech

2. Santi_Santi unregistered

Great analysis. PD: First comment after banning

22. MeoCao unregistered

It's always easier said than done. MS is notoriously slow in development, they are used to being the monopoly and never feel the urgency in bringing product to market. Google announced JB and released it in a few weeks. Now look at MS and Apple: they announced new OS months before realease b-c they need lots of time to fine tune their software.

3. Johnnokia

Posts: 1158; Member since: May 27, 2012

Who is apple ??? Nokia is the best

20. Jay_F

Posts: 236; Member since: Nov 29, 2011

10 years ago, I'd agree.

30. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

10 months later u will agree again

4. clevelandiskindacool

Posts: 37; Member since: Jul 03, 2012

If microsoft wants to get anywhere above their current 4-5% market share they need to announce availability at least a month before iPhone 5

12. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Technically anything they can do that would be outside the buyer's remorse period of the host carrier (30 days for AT&T, 14 for most everyone else) would be their benefit so customers can't easily return their devices and trade for a competitors' model.

14. Aeires unregistered

Availability or not, any announcement to create buzz and hesitation towards competitor products would be good for Nokia at this point. I've seen very few commercials about Win phones, if MS is really serious about them then they need to really crank up the marketing. Apple and Samsung isn't going to slow down their marketing, that's been proven.

5. Angkor

Posts: 108; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Microsoft WP8 OS is making Nokia lost of profit and market share. Nokia is playing a catch up game with Microsoft WP update every 3 months.

6. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

i dunno, I think it could work to their benefit either way. If they announce something amazing before the next iphone.. say a 4.3+ inch HD screen with the proview 40mpx camera and a full day with heavy usage battery life... that could keep enough wind in their sales to take some out of Apple.. but I doubt it.. Apple fans are apple fans. Even though the OS barely changes from iteration to iteration they get crazy excited for it anyways. On the flip side, they could have the meeting like 2 weeks after the iphone announcement. We have a very solid idea of what the iphone5 will look like, and we know what iOS6 is all about. A lot of the wind that Apple normally has from an announcement probably wont be there this year. The new feature is a 0.5 inch bigger screen and a metal back. Unless there is a "surprise app" unannounced from iOS6 (which there probably is) that is just... huge.. I dont see mega fanfare (except from the crazed fans of course).. i see a bit of fan despair.. especially with what Google just brought with 4.1 JB. With that in mind, MS could capitalize on that "despair" by announcing that super mega W8 device and its new features and energize people that were put off by the Apple announcement. It would make MS seem even "better" than they might have seemed before the announcement. Of course, that all just depends on exactly what MS has up its sleeve too.

17. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Agree, remixfa. Apple is still Apple, but they are playing it way to safe. At some point, the public wants something more. At what point do Apple fans hit that wall?

19. Penny

Posts: 1847; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

Yeah I very much agree remix. I think WP8 is a compelling enough release that it could capitalize with anybody that is on the fence if the iPhone 5 announcement fails to generate as much fanfare as previous years. I would also release the WP8 flagships right after the iPhone 5 to further convey a feeling that WP8 will be a better release because there is a certain sense of reward associated with holding out for the next best thing (as long as it is a very short wait, not even weeks).

27. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

the only reason I wouldn't release it right after the iPhone5 announcement is that it take a little bit of time to digest. Believe it or not, Michael is not the only writer of his kind, and articulating a point from a non hype stance takes more than a few days. You have to give the masses time to soak the i5 announcement in, let some knee jerk writers chime in, and let some real solemness set in for fans before you revitalize them with something completely new and different. Let them get nearly to the point of accepting the i5, and then wow them like crazy with W8 and a stellar flagship phone.

7. .TRADE.MARK.

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

It's true Nokia are with-out exception have been connecting people; but they have lost the midas touch, that they will, have, and never use high-spec hardware in there products....! Samsung will lead. Nokia will follow!

9. harley22x

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I think Microsoft and Nokia need to advertise, playing off of the iPhone UI, and how it never really changed in 5 years. "Tired of the same old UI" or "Upgrade from a stale UI to Live Tiles" or... "No more stale icons, New, Beautiful Live Tiles." or something to that effect.

10. harley22x

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

iPhone UI and device design its self. **

13. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

The smartphone beta test campaign was a decently compelling series, and could be continued or modified for the same premise

11. The_Godfather

Posts: 196; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

This article isn't gonna make any difference to Windows phone8 as they would be fully featured pack devices with a totally different UI. People gonna love it like anything and moreover if you talk about Apps there would be so many awesome apps on the way :)

15. paulyyd

Posts: 340; Member since: Jan 08, 2011

Lol every company is watching apple and planning to unveil their products before rumored dates ao they can get the jump on them. Now thats what you call domination. Apple is just that good

34. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Is that why Google is announcing the new Nexus devices after Apple? Or perhaps that's the reason why Apple always announces something after CES? It's all part of the game. No company wants a rival to dominate the news, so everyone thinks strategically about announcements, even Apple.

16. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

What it comes down to is that it really does not matter when Microsoft and Nokia make the WP 8 announcement, Apple will get all the press in the tech sections of sites like USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the lead at PC Magazine, Wired, and all the room on the tickers of Fox News and CNN. They are mainstream, and WP is not. MS is going to get a little love, but they are playing a game of "HEY!! LOOK AT US!!". The fact is WP is still a year or two away from the type of growth where getting the jump on Apple would mean anything. I love their vision, but how they are selling in May and June of next year is more important than where they are in December of this year.

18. Penny

Posts: 1847; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

If I were Microsoft, I would probably want to show off the features of Windows Phone 8 maybe 2 weeks prior to the launch of the iPhone 5 (but after the iPhone 5 announcement), and release the first WP8 flagship phones a few days after the iPhone 5. What I wouldn't want to do is launch the WP8 flagship phones prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, because then you will be in a situation in which you are not going to buy the WP8 flagship right away, but rather wait until the iPhone 5 is released. This would hurt initial sales, and as a result, consumer confidence in the product. That is all anybody on the fence would need to jump on the iPhone 5 as soon as it becomes available. Also, since I feel that WP8 is more impressive of a release than iOS 6, I think it has the potential to make people who are on the fence curious enough to wait the extra few days until WP8 flagships are launched instead of jumping on the iPhone 5 right away. This curiosity that resulted in a few days wait is in itself already an investment by the consumer into the platform. When somebody has already invested their time/thoughts/curiosity into something, they are much more likely to commit entirely as long as it falls within a certain range of their expectations. Well, those are my initial reactions at least.

32. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Good strategic planning, Penny. MS needs you on speed dial....

21. rsiders

Posts: 1934; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

As a Windows Phone enthusiast and fan, all the latest news is really getting me pumped about Windows Phone 8. WP8 is sure to be fully loaded come this fall. I'm actually taking a month(August) off from all forms of news(PhoneArena, PhoneDog, PocketNow, Windows Phone Central) concerning to WP8 to get other things done until Nokia World is underway. I'm excited about what's happening in the Microsoft camp though!

31. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

More disciplined than I am. I am having fun mining for info.

23. parkwaydr

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 07, 2011

I don't know, I honestly think if ms plays the right hand, they can grab bb fans who are sick of waiting for rim to get it in gear, only because I think a bb 7 to wp8 would be a great and painless transition, I don't think they can pull too many from apple, only because apple fans generally aren't fence goers, so to speak, and, my self being an exception as I am genuinely interested, I don't think many android users will take the leap. That being said, I hope Sprint actually picks up a wp8 device, but let it be known that if I do want it, I have no problems switching carriers for it.

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