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Nokia's Brave New World is (almost) Finn-free

Things are different around here, now...

Nokia World What a difference a year makes. The only Finnish presence on stage during the 90-minute opening session of Nokia World this year was a dead architect. None of the five speakers was a Finn, and they said some very un-Nokian things. It’s a sign of how much Nokia is changing under Stephen Elop.

Although Nokia still speaks its own weird language in its marketing material – a close relation of Jingrish, I’ve always thought – Elop has dispensed with a lot of the old platitudes and complacency. There was a lot of emphasis on how the new Windows phones would be sold, with Jobsian attention to the point of sale experience. With the old guard, you couldn’t imagine they’d ever given that any thought. They never had to.

In summary, Nokia launched two new Windows phones, and four cheapies for emerging markets. Both are competitively priced, the “hero” Lumia 800 (€420) and “no-nonsense and budget” Lumia 710 (€270), giving Android a run for its money. The Lumias are already in production, and will be available in limited territories, including the UK, before Christmas, with the 800 leading the charge. China and the US must wait until next year.

An enormous coordinated marketing push will bring Microsoft Phone to the masses. Two new brands were launched – Asha and Lumia – for the emerging markets and Windows lines. The old, numerical product naming strategy was a mess, with numbers being bizarrely recycled, and different products having the same name.

There’s no substantial product differentiation yet. There’s a Windows logo, email is “Outlook and Gmail” and the web browser has a big blue ‘e’. Can you guess what it is? The Lumias are bundled with music streaming (of pre-selected playlists) and the ESPN app – which look very ticklist and last minute. They’re also bundled with Nokia’s free turn-by-turn voice navigation – which is a lot more impressive.

They’ll also include Office and Xbox hubs, and 25G of Skydrive storage.

And it’s early days yet. As I wrote on Monday, the new management will be relieved to get them on the market, in quantity, for Christmas. Back when the seismic strategy shift was revealed in February, many doubted this was possible.

The real differentiator is going to be the casing – which is a little better than that of the competition – and the legacy of the brand. Another differentiator is the fact that Windows Phone is actually quite good, although most punters don’t know it exists, and have almost certainly never seen it.

Elop said the Lumia 800 had been pledged three times as much marketing money as any previous phone. You probably won’t escape it.

One flaw is that Nokia uses the same outrageously camp colour palette for its smartphones as it does for its emerging youth phones. You can see the intent: when someone sees a luminous phone in the street they'll think, "Ah, Nokia."

According to a marketing guru this is because Nokia is targeting the "inner 25-year-old" in everyone.

But are you going to be seen with a pink smartphone? Anywhere? ®

My Bloody Bootnote

The executive who introduced the Windows devices was called Kevin Shields. No, not the legendary reclusive guitarist, but the Senior VP of smart devices. This one, though, managed to Out-Ballmer Steve Ballmer by shrieking that the new phone looked AWESOME, so loudly most people flinched. It was a BEAST inside, he added. The other Kevin Shields’ group used to play so loudly, they made people physically sick at their concerts. So the Kevins have something in common: they’re both sonic terrorists.

Here it is on video, courtesy of Frakulous:

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