Nokia Relentlessly Grows the Windows Phone Ecosystem

When Nokia announced that it secured AT&T’s commitment to sell the LTE-powered Lumia 900 a little over a month ago we alluded to the fact the attractive price point, coupled with the aggressive marketing campaign to reintroduce the Nokia brand, would help the vendor and the Windows Phone platform overcome its biggest challenge – attracting the developer community. Application developers have long been prioritizing other platforms due to low consumer adoption of Windows Phone, and consumers have been staying away from the platform due to lack of a rich application library. At CTIA 2012, Nokia announced that the Windows Phone platform now features over 80,000 applications, up from about 70,000 a month ago.

But beyond the generic Market Place apps, Nokia is also developing exclusive applications with major brands (including PGA Tour, ESPN, Groupon, and AOL) in various consumer verticals. These are designed to drive consumers interested in Windows Phone to a Lumia decision point and – hopefully – making the decision more about content than about simply the device price point. Importantly, these new applications are being built with a Live Tiles focus, and thus are an improved experience over variants based on other OS platforms.

The trick for Nokia will be how to market the exclusive nature of these applications, rather than simply creating strong marketing for Windows Phone overall – an approach that will benefit competitors such as Samsung just as well as Nokia. Indeed, one day prior to Nokia’s announcement of the new apps, AT&T announced the upcoming availability of the LTE-powered Samsung Focus 2 Windows Phone, which will carry a $49.99 price tag. If consumers do not understand that the apps are exclusive the purchase decision will remain one of device price and functionality, and all the efforts on development initiatives will have been for naught. Compounding the issue is the fact that a key target for Nokia is first-time smartphone buyers, who are far more price sensitive. Unless the value of exclusive apps is truly highlighted at retail, these target customers will still migrate to other OEMs.

While there is no question that Nokia should continue to heavily cooperate with Microsoft to expand the Windows Phone ecosystem, more emphasis must be placed on marketing the exclusive apps in TV advertising and in the retail point of purchase.