The past week saw some of the most exciting product launches announced by a host of mobile companies as the industry prepares for a frenetic holiday season next quarter. First, we had Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) and LG making waves with their respective product launches. Samsung debuted its first Windows Phone 8 smartphone, apart from a host of Android devices, and LG took the wraps off its upcoming flagship Optimus G smartphone powered by a quad-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) processor. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Motorola (now acquired by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)) then followed with their respective flagship announcements, with Nokia announcing its first Windows Phone 8 devices and Motorola releasing upgrades to its Droid Razr line. Meanwhile, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sneaked in with the announcement of a media event next week, increasing hopes that the iPhone 5 may be just around the corner.
The Nokia-Microsoft joint event was probably the most important announcement made this week for the sheer impact that the collaboration potentially has on the dynamics of the broader mobile industry in general and Nokia in particular. The tech giants who are jointly working on creating a third ecosystem of mobile devices alongside iOS and Android announced the launch of their first Windows Phone 8 devices, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820. While the new phones sport quite a few new features that differentiate them from the smartphones in the market such as the Pureview imaging technology and a novel wireless charging concept, Nokia’s stock fell more than 15% after the announcement on concerns that the phone may not find many takers with the iPhone 5 expected to be launched next week. While the iPhone 5 is expected to be made available for pre-order immediately after launch, the new Lumias will start shipping only in ‘select markets’ later in the year.
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The timing of the market release may have spooked many investors but Nokia’s strategy is to align the Lumia launch with the release of Windows 8 in late-October. In its own words, Microsoft is preparing to make the Windows 8 launch its “biggest product and services launch” ever. Closely tying the Lumia WP8’s release to the Windows 8 launch could therefore help Nokia benefit from the combined marketing power that will be put behind Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. (see Nokia Announces Lumia WP8; Likely To Wait For Windows 8 Launch Before Shipping)
Barely had a week passed since the historic ruling that went against Samsung in the Apple patent-infringement trial that the former, continuing with its strategy of flooding the market with new gadgets, unveiled a plethora of mobile devices and PCs ranging from smartphones, tablets and phablets to smart cameras and ultrabooks. The multiple announcements included updates to some of Samsung’s best-selling existing models such as the Galaxy Note as well as new product launches such as Series 5 and Series 7 Windows 8 tablets and a ATIV S Windows Phone 8 smartphone.
The timing of these announcements probably points to Samsung trying to divert some of the negative attention it had been receiving since the end of the Apple patent trial, but it was also reminiscent of the market-flooding strategy that has worked so well for Samsung in recent times. However, the same strategy may not work for long as Apple’s recent patent win in the U.S. threatens to stop Samsung in its tracks. (see Samsung’s Market-Flooding Strategy May Not Work Much Longer)
While most handset makers are trying to make the best of the upcoming holiday season, conspicuous by its absence in September and possibly through all of the holiday season will be erstwhile smartphone leader, Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM). The beleaguered company is rushing to get its BB10 OS ready in time for launch early next year, having already postponed launching BB10 smartphones by a year. While CEO Thorstein Heins maintains that the delays are to ensure that the product is completely ready before launch, the constant postponement has affected the BlackBerry brand and caused its hardware revenues to more than halve y-o-y from around $3.8 billion to about $1.7 billion last quarter. While BB10 does give RIM the best chance of staging a turnaround, the number of new product launches being announced ahead of the holiday season only widens the gap between RIM and other rivals, making the turnaround RIM is hoping for next year even tougher. (see RIM’s Absence This Holiday Season Makes Turnaround Tougher)