Skip navigation

Explaining Nokia’s Lumia Exclusivity Strategy

In the wake of this week’s revelation that Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone 8 handset would only be made available via one wireless carrier in each major market, I’ve received a number of complaints from readers, who believe the company is shooting itself in the foot. As it turns out, Nokia had previously explained this strategy, such as it is. And while I don’t personally agree with it, this shouldn’t have been surprising. After all, they did the same thing with the Lumia 900.

AT&T Wireless kicked off the fun when it revealed that the high-end Nokia Lumia 920 would only be sold via its network in the United States. (The Lumia 820 will be available by multiple carriers, including Verizon Wireless.) “Exclusive to our customers … the Lumia 920 will be one of the hottest phones for the holidays,” said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president – Devices and Developer Services, AT&T Mobility.

Ouch. One emailer told me that Rogers will be the exclusive carrier for the Lumia 920 in Canada, too. What gives?

Go figure, but this is actually a strategy, as Nokia CEO Stephen Elop revealed previously. He told All Things D earlier in the week that its original retail strategy for the Lumia 800, its first Windows Phone handset, was wrong.

“The company basically launched the Lumia 800 and made it available broadly without much focus on specific carriers or regions,” the article notes. “We broad-brushed it,” Elop said. “Everybody had it.”

By the time the second-generation Lumia 900 arrived, Nokia had changed its strategy. For the US launch, Nokia made this new flagship device available only via AT&T at first (and made the Lumia 710 available only via one carrier, T-Mobile, as well).

I’m not surprised that All Things D neglected to follow up on what seems like a subtle point. But it was made: Nokia feels that the way it launched the Lumia 800—across multiple carriers—was wrong, while doing so via just one carrier, as it did with the Lumia 900, was right. So it’s doing that again with the Lumia 920 as well.

But in a news story about the AT&T-exclusive launch of the Lumia 920 today, the WSJ quoted an analyst (cough) who lauded the strategy. “The US market is critical to investor sentiment, so securing AT&T as a lead carrier partner is an encouraging development for Nokia,” Ben Wood, an industry analyst at CCS Insight, said.

I don’t personally agree with this strategy. I think all Windows Phone devices should be available across as many wireless carriers as possible and that Nokia’s relative lack of success with the Lumia 800 had more to do with locale exclusivity—they never even launched the damn thing in the US—and customer apathy than with any retailing strategy. Furthermore, I feel that the Lumia 900 could have been an even bigger deal if it was shipped via Verizon Wireless too.

It’s not clear to me that Nokia will ever get this right. They make good products. But they can’t market them at all.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.