Mango Windows Phones Give Nokia Apps to Strike Back at Apple
Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), which missed out twice on the love-in between smartphone users and their applications, may have a chance with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows Phone 7 to attract writers of the next “Shazam” or “Angry Birds” blockbuster.
Third-party applications helped make Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone the most profitable smartphone as users flocked to a handset with a slick touchscreen and an online store that has grown to more than 425,000 games and other programs. Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android system, supported by dozens of manufacturers, also lured developers and became the best-selling smartphone system in the first quarter, soaring past Nokia’s Symbian software.
Nokia is seeking to regain momentum by offering smartphones with Windows Phone 7, which will run about 30,000 applications, plus more that are being prepared before its handset release next quarter. Nokia is retiring Symbian, which frustrated app suppliers with its shifting versions and writing tools. Developers say the switch to Windows gives the Espoo, Finland- based company a greater chance of success.
“Nokia has had a hard time attracting enough committed developers and this is a chance to win them back,” said Jani Nevalainen, a manager at software developer Symbio, which works for clients including Nokia and Microsoft and has offices in Cupertino, California, Beijing and Tampere, Finland. “Many things that were time-consuming on their earlier phones are a walk in the park on Windows Phone.”
Nokia declined 0.5 percent to 4.09 euros as of 12:12 p.m. in Helsinki trading.
In Finnish, Too
The stock has lost almost half of its value since Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop announced the partnership with Microsoft in February, as investors worried about further market share and revenue erosion before shipments of Windows Phones.
Microsoft announced Windows Phone in February 2010, jettisoning an earlier system called Windows Mobile. A new version codenamed “Mango,” announced in May, adds face detection in photos, extended voice recognition for writing, and support for 15 additional European and Asian languages, including Finnish.
Mango also lets users synchronize Microsoft Office documents with cloud versions in Microsoft’s Office 365 and SkyDrive, and improves integration with corporate directories and e-mail systems.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone Marketplace began accepting applications that use the Mango features this week and will start publishing them within days, Casey McGee, senior marketing manager for Windows Phone, said in an interview. “It’s a question of how we go about creating the right games, the right applications and some new and unique titles,” McGee said.
Important categories include social networking, games, reference and search, he said. Users typically have between 10 and 50 applications on their handsets, he said.
“People are waiting for Nokia because the other manufacturers haven’t launched it in very big quantities” said Nevalainen, referring to the Windows Phone. “Nokia is the big game changer here.”
Polar Mobile, a Toronto-based maker of media apps including software for publications Wired UK and the Toronto Globe and Mail, already has 300 apps for Windows Phone and intends to upgrade them to Mango, CEO Kunal Gupta said in an interview.
Offscreen Technologies in Helsinki has already released solitaire and backgammon games for Windows Phone 7.
“App publishers we’re working with seem to be much more enthusiastic about Windows Phone 7 than Symbian,” said CEO Harri Myllynen. “Still, Apple and Android are number one and this will be a long-tail platform. I’m not aware of any developer investing in a big way yet.”
Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who transformed the business he started at age 21 into the world’s largest technology company, announced his resignation Aug. 24. Jobs, who will become chairman, was on medical leave after combating a rare form of cancer and is succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who has been running day-to-day operations.
What Windows Phone lacks, developers say, is market share and proof that consumers who like the feature-packed handsets will spend money on extra applications.
Microsoft’s share in smartphones, including some units on Windows Mobile, was 1.6 percent in the second quarter, according to researcher Gartner Inc. That put it behind Android, Symbian, iPhone, Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM)’s BlackBerry, and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Bada. Nokia’s smartphone market share plummeted to 20.9 percent from 37.4 percent a year earlier, according to Gartner.
“We were pleasantly surprised by Windows Phone 7,” said Tom Hume, whose Brighton, U.K. company Future Platforms produced the WP7 version of “Touchnote,” which sends mobile-phone snapshots as printed postcards. “Symbian was like a 20-year-old operating system that had 20 years of accumulated cruft,” a term for outdated software or hardware.
Nokia has used Symbian, which is descended from software used on Psion Plc personal digital assistants in the 1990s, as its flagship smartphone operating system for the past decade. Nokia this week unveiled three models running “Symbian Belle” starting at 180 euros ($259). Nokia will continue updating the Symbian system through 2012 and support will continue to 2016, Colin Giles, Nokia’s global sales chief, said in an interview.
Sports Tracking Technologies Oy, a 20-person Nokia spinoff whose “Sports Tracker” app records users’ runs and other workouts, is considering whether to support Windows Phone, CEO Jussi Kaasinen said. His app, which accesses global-positioning- system and map data, needs more work to build and maintain than others that just pipe content from the Web, he said.
‘Cut the Rope’
Square Inc., which makes a U.S.-based credit-card payment system for Apple’s iOS and Android devices, doesn’t plan to add other platforms, spokeswoman Katie Baynes said. Fring, an Israeli company that supplies Internet calling and chatting applications, is following Windows Phone but hasn’t developed a product, spokeswoman Nadia Hitman said.
Zeptolab, the Moscow-based maker of the game “Cut the Rope,” will focus on iOS and Android. “As a relatively small studio, we have to keep the priorities tough for anything we do,” said Chief Creative Officer Semyon Voinov. “The situation might change if we got more resources or WP7 got a bigger market share.”
Clemens Grossman, CEO of TouchingCode, a four-person Berlin-based company whose iPhone and Android apps include the “Kreuz und Quer” word puzzle and a poetry reader, also said that while his company isn’t supporting Windows Phone, it might if the market takes off.
“Windows Phone has a good chance to become the third ecosystem but the question is how far it will be from the two leaders,” said Michael Vakulenko, research partner with London mobile consultancy VisionMobile. “Any developer who decides to invest in Windows Phone 7 needs to consider alternatives and that’s always Android and iPhone.”
Nokia’s participation should help Windows phones improve their cameras, audio quality and battery life, developers said. The Finnish company may also add navigation, which is featured on its other smartphones, and help more users pay for their apps on their phone bills.
“People will take Windows Phone 7 as the third one to go for but I don’t think it’s going to stop many people from building iPhone or Android apps,” said Hume of Future Platforms.
To contact the reporter on this story: Diana ben-Aaron in Helsinki at firstname.lastname@example.org
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