Microsoft has finally revealed its “selfie phone,” and it’s about what one would expect from the company that acquired Nokia’s phone-making division: a colorful device with a gimmick — a wide angle front-facing camera, in this instance — to set it apart from its staunch competition.
Lumia smartphones have followed that pattern for years. They feature colorful casings, a single feature meant to attract a consumer’s attention, and the Windows Phone operating system. The only difference is that this newfangled selfie phone is being sold by Microsoft instead of Nokia.
Of all the things Microsoft could do with Nokia’s phone-making division, following the Lumia’s playbook is probably the most boring. There’s a reason why Nokia had to sell its main business off to Microsoft: consumers weren’t buying enough Lumia smartphones for it to keep operating. Continuing to release follow-up Lumia products isn’t going to work out any better for Microsoft.
But perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything different from the company that killed the most interesting thing Nokia had done in years — shipping smartphones with Android, not Windows Phone, pre-installed — soon after it acquired the moribund smartphone-maker. Microsoft was the albatross around Nokia’s neck, and now it’s getting in the way of its own shot at success too.
As I wrote when newly-christened Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella nixed the project in July,
Keeping the smartphone line around would have certainly damaged Windows Phone’s chances of success, but it might also have given Microsoft a chance to do what every other smartphone manufacturer has done and twist Android to suit its own purposes. Unless things change for Windows Phone in the next few years, that’s going to be the outcome anyway — why not work towards it now with a product line that could prove Microsoft’s prowess as a hardware-maker without saddling the company with the weight of its own (unsuccessful) software platform?
It seems that Nadella — and Microsoft as a whole — enjoys shouting “Off with their heads!” too much to give Nokia X a chance to prove its worth to Microsoft. Instead, consumers will be left with a hollow promise and a glance at what might have happened if Nokia had never tethered itself to Microsoft and the Windows Phone operating system in the first place.
Instead of getting a peek at what Nokia’s smartphone division could create without having to work with an also-ran operating system, or with Microsoft’s vast resources, we got yet another Lumia smartphone. Maybe Microsoft could put that oh-so-important front-facing camera to use by taking a nice, long look at what its getting out of its $7.2 billion acquisition.
[image via Nokia]