Armed with their new, yellow Nokia 920s, Microsoft head man Steve Ballmer and Nokia chief Stephen Elop are ready to challenge the two companies that have an 85 percent share of the smartphone market: Google (Android) and Apple (iOS).
Elop, the former head of Microsoft's business division, has bet big on Microsoft's new phone platform to revive Nokia, which has struggled to gain traction in the smartphone arena. In the second quarter of 2012, Nokia sold 10.2 million smartphones worldwide, which equates to a 6.6 percent share, down from 15.4 percent a year earlier, according to IDC. Android-based Samsung led the pack with a 32.6 percent share, followed by Apple with 16.9 percent share.
Elop and his former boss Ballmer were on stage in New York on Wednesday morning to introduce Nokia's and Microsoft's answer to the forthcoming iPhone 5, which makes its debut September 12, and the Android king, Samsung's Galaxy S3. "The Lumia 920 is the world's most innovative smartphone," Elop claimed during the product launch. However, he didn't announce carriers, availability, or pricing for the 920 at the launch event. Nokia's flagging stock was down more than 10 percent after the announcement.
Unfortunately for Nokia and Microsoft, Apple's iPhone 5 will be in the market before the Lumia 920, feeding pent-up demand that could result in sales of 10 million iPhone 5s during the last 10 days of September. And Motorola (now Google) is rolling out new Android-based Droid Razrs today.
It's a pivotal time for Microsoft, as the company begins its attempt to conquer the smartphone market. Ballmer predicted that a year from now the world will bask in Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, with a combined 400 million devices using Microsoft's platform. He's depending not just on Nokia on the phone front -- Microsoft has lined up Androiders, including Samsung and HTC, as well as newcomers, such as Acer.
Ballmer specifically touted the opportunity for developers during his remarks at Nokia's event in New York. The app makers are key to challenging Apple and Google. "Perhaps more importantly than anything else, we bring a developer platform and a store that's common to both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8," he said.
Apple currently has more than 650,000 iOS apps, and Google has around 600,000 Android apps. Windows Phone had surpassed 100,000 apps prior to the launch of Windows 8 at the end of October. Ballmer predicted that the next app developer to "hit it really, really big will be a developer on Windows." That may be true, but if it's a great app from a third-party developer, it will also be available on iOS and Android. In any case, the majority of inhabitants on this planet are without a smartphone, so there's plenty of opportunity to acquire customers.
Watch the CNET interview with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop