Nokia's Massive, Microsoft-Shaped Problem

Tom Warren, The Verge:

Nokia just unveiled its Lumia 925 at an event in London, and I've managed to take an early look at the handset ahead of its release in June. Nokia has swapped out a unibody polycarbonate look and feel for metal. Aluminum to be precise. The result is a stunning, slimline Lumia that weighs just 139 grams. It's really noticeable when you pick up the Lumia 925 for the first time. With a polycarbonate rear, and aluminum frame wrapping around the side of the device, it feels almost as plastic and lightweight as a Samsung Galaxy. But the aluminum makes it a lot more sturdy and brings it to similar design and hardware levels as Apple's iPhone 5.

With the release of the Lumia 925 and the HTC One, the first half of 2013 has brought gifts of truly phenomenal industrial design, but failed to deliver in terms of software — both experientially and aesthetically.

Marry either the One or the 925 with stock Android and I daresay you'd have truly impactful devices on the market to challenge the iPhone.

Mar both the One and 925 with a subpar software experience, however, and you continue to face the same aged problems endemic to the marketplace.

Although I comprehend HTC's dogged loyalty to its Sense skin amidst a poorly differentiated Android market, Nokia's dire attachment to Microsoft is simply baffling.

In its early stages, the allegiance, admittedly, made sense. Microsoft was willing to provide money and support, thereby saving Nokia, whilst Microsoft also received an aesthetically admirable hardware arm. It was a symbiotic relationship that provided clear benefits to all parties.

Today, on the other hand, Microsoft has increasingly distanced itself from Nokia and the purported benefits of the relationship have been left by the wayside. In an effort to catalyze growth in its ecosystem, Microsoft has thrown its support behind HTC and rumors continue to swirl regarding a Surface-branded phone. Meanwhile, Nokia has been left behind with its devices, burned with the Windows Phone 7-to-8 upgrade debacle, and so on.

Nokia continues to bless a stagnant — albeit attractive — operating system with genuinely beautiful hardware. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to court competitors, ignore its most valuable hardware asset, and fail to drastically cover any ground in its game of competitive catch-up.

The relationship is, in other words, poisonous to Nokia. We've watched as the firm has built multiple iterations of fantastic products only to be underserved on the software side. And as stock Android arrives at a point of true attraction and viability, the tragedy of the situation only worsens.

The Lumia 925 is both a triumph of design and a failure in business. It's objectively well-considered, whilst also being a vapid disappointment.

Unless Microsoft can provide a compelling reason for Windows Phone adoption in its — presumably impending — yearly update, there's simply no reason to purchase a Lumia 925 beyond its good looks. And that's a shame for customers, a problem for the competitive landscape, and ought to be a dire concern for Nokia.