Fri, Sep 07, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Google, Microsoft take on Apple in smartphone arena

AFP, NEW YORK

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, left, and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, right, hold the new Nokia Lumia 920 phone at a news event in New York on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Google Inc and Microsoft Corp have introduced new champions in the fiercely competitive smartphone market a week ahead of what is likely to be the hotly anticipated debut of the iPhone 5 by Apple Inc.

Microsoft and Nokia Oyj joined forces on Wednesday to boost their smartphone arsenal with two new Lumia handsets powered by Windows 8 software.

The Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 are part of the Finnish-based company’s strategy of offering “an alternative to the faceless black and gray monoblocs that you see out there,” Nokia president and chief executive Stephen Elop said at a New York launch event.

“This is Lumia, the world’s most innovative smartphone,” Elop said in unveiling the two new devices.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer also appeared at the event, which offered no specifics on launch dates or prices in various markets.

Later in the day, Motorola Mobility added three powerful Android smartphones to its Droid family in a separate event in New York City.

The additions of RAZR M, RAZR HD and RAZR MAXX HD to the Motorola line-up came as the first major product news from the company since it was bought by Internet giant Google one year ago in a US$12.5 billion deal.

The RAZR smartphones are powered by Google’s Android software and synched to the US telecom network of Verizon Wireless.

The media events in Manhattan shined early spotlights on Microsoft and Android mobile gadget platforms that compete with Apple iOS and drew attention to handsets that will compete with iPhones for holiday shoppers’ cash.

“[Microsoft and Google] platforms are really out-innovating Apple, but that might not matter to consumers,” said Ken Delaney, vice president of mobile computing at Gartner Research. “The consumer goes into a store with a heavy bias to buy an Apple product and you have to do a lot to unseat them from that love affair.”

Delaney predicted that if Apple debuts an iPhone 5 as expected in San Francisco on Wednesday next week it will be a “monster event” that sets the stage for huge sales.

Smartphones powered by Google’s Android software continued to dominate with 52.2 percent of the US market, but Apple’s iOS was the second most popular smartphone platform with 33.4 percent, according to comScore.

Nokia, once the leader in mobile phones, has been losing market share as consumers move to smartphones powered by Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system.

The Finnish firm’s new strategy is phasing out its Symbian smartphones in favor of a partnership with Microsoft. However, investors were disappointed by the lack of specifics over when the new Lumia smartphones will be available.

Nokia shares took a blow, sinking nearly 15 percent on the New York Stock Exchange to close at US$2.38, but rose US$0.05 in after-hours trades.

“Nokia’s a shadow of its old self and success of the new Lumia devices is critical,” RBC Capital Markets said in a note to investors.

Google shares were down less than 1 percent for the day, trading at US$680.40 after hours on the NASDAQ.

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