Nokia Responds To Consumer Criticism About Lumia 900 Without Windows Phone 8

Nokia's slick Lumia 900 smartphone has received rave reviews from critics and designers alike. And with a massive multi-million-dollar marketing push from AT&T, the Lumia series is arguably Microsoft's best bet for pushing its Windows Phone operating system up against iPhones and Androids.

There's just one problem. As was revealed just weeks ago, Nokia's flagship phone won't be able to upgrade to Microsoft's flagship mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8, due out this fall. That means despite a huge branding effort by both companies, the Lumia 900—once a symbol for the partnership Microsoft and Nokia forged to keep pace with Apple and Google—will be outmoded in just a couple months time. For consumers already hesitant to make the leap to an unproven platform on a device built by a faltering hardware maker, the news will only add to their apprehensions. Nokia sold just 4 million Lumia smartphones last quarter, and posted a net loss of $1.72 billion.

Though Nokia CEO Stephen Elop recently responded to a customer's frustrations by email, outside that one out-of-the-blue message, the company has been mostly mum on the issue. But we recently caught up with Jo Harlow, executive VP of Nokia's of smart devices, to learn whether the phone maker sees this as a problem. "Of course, anytime there's a binary break when the software is not upgradeable, that's potentially a consumer problem," she says. But Harlow promises that both Nokia and Microsoft will introduce certain software updates to existing devices running the older operating system (Windows Phone 7.5) to alleviate any concerns. She realizes why some consumers would be upset over this issue, but believes it's no different than what other smartphone makers face.

"We've taken a lot of criticism for this, but I also think there's a real reality in the market place," she says. "There are very few Android devices that can upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. So, it's a reality as the capabilities move on."

Still, it's not exactly a good excuse for Nokia and Microsoft to compare the situation to Android. Google's mobile OS is infamous for its extreme fragmentation, with devices running on a bakery full of dessert-titled Android iterations: Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Froyo, Ice Cream Sandwich, and so forth. Apple has never had this issue of fragmentation—more than a whopping 80% of Apple users are running iOS 5, whereas just roughly 7% of Android users have the latest version.

Windows Phone is far from facing the same fragmentation woes as Android, but with Nokia's flagship entry into the space, the company has to be careful not to stray too far away from a tightly controlled ecosystem, as Apple has developed.

"There are a certain set of consumers for whom this is a big consideration," Harlow acknowledges. "But I would argue that even if it were upgradeable, those consumers would still want a device that has the latest and greatest hardware that will be made available with Windows Phone 8. That's kind of a natural transition that happens whether you look at the iPhone or other platforms."

[Image: Flickr user Vernon Chan]

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  • N9

    The Lumia 900 didn't get raving reviews, the N9 got. The Lumia 900 got OK reviews. Also, the only reason nobody complains about Windows Phone fragmentation is that is has virtually no market share. Remember, there is Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, and soon Windows Phone 8. And while Windows Phone 7 Apps might work on Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 8 Apps will not work on Windows Phone 7. Poor Lumia users...

  • W78

    The Nokia/Windows Phone 7. x not being upgradable is much, much worse than any iPhone upgrade or the fragmentation on Android devices. My 3 year old iPhone has more capabilities than my new Lumia 900. And, most - most new apps for iPhone run fine on the 3Gs. Android APPs are largely not dependent on the latest version. So, Microsoft killed Nokia. Anyone that sees my almost out of date brand new phone is getting a warning from me not to purchase Windows 7.x phones and to avoid Windows 8. Fool me once, shame on me...

  • Richard Maus

    The fact that the Mac OS didn't run on the Apple IIe didn't seem to hinder Apple, so stop whining. Nobody expects the new OS for new hardware capabilities to run on the old hardware. And if id did, it wouldn't add anything. This is not a new phenomena.

  • DK

    Yes, when is the lumina coming out with Win 8....I have been using Lumina 900 and love it.

  • havasu46

    Totally agree with her comments. It would be really frsutrating to have all those WP8 features on my Lumia 900 but not have the hardware in the device to use them. I'll just what for the Nokia Lumia 950 or 1000 that has all the hardware and software and then pay an upgrade fee.  My Lumia 900 is great and I'm totally satisfied with Microsoft and Nokia support for my Lumia 900 and their ongoing intergation of my other devices to their ecosystem like XBox. 

  • iplay2

    So what?????
    I still love my Lumia 900, and I'm planning to buy next Lumia set with WP8.
    Stop all this bullshit and talk about the next Lumias. :)

  • alfred msungama

    you might want to consider Nokia N9...  the MeeGo OS is far superior to WP

  • theNewDanger

    Nobody has used MeeGo.  Since it isn't out on enough handsets, carriers aren't going to give a fluck in most countries.  The status quo is too good to them with iOS and Android.  WP is just not there yet, in my opinion.  I've been kinda scatterbrained about it as I've tried twice now to go all in with the Lumia 900 beyond 30 days and couldn't make it a week.  As great as WP is, the fact that the future desktop component of the Windows ecosystem will essentially be a counterproductive carbon copy of WP, I'm willing to pass on WP. But MeeGo, as nice as it seems, needs more people.  Plain and simple. 

  • alfred msungama

    get your hands on an N9, and I think youll find that none of that matters anymore. the feeling you get when others discuss phones, and you know to yourself that, no matter wat they have, your n9 is better....beautiful :)

  • xiaozi

    Wrong. The Nokia N9/N900 platform was developed for MEGO, released in some markets with MEGO as N9, and then several months later re-introduced to other markets as N900.

    At least here in Asia, we have a choice of N9 or N900.

    Now the development of MEGO is continuing and will be multi-platform in Asian markets (I don't know about ROW).

  • rajavelu_v

    yup yup!!  My 800 gets all updates whichever can be updated i.e excluding hardware changes!! So wats in there.. im waiting for lumia pureview to announce.. thats the End

  • Rod

    I think what many fail to realize or refuse to acknowledge is that Apple's iOS fragments as well, but through cleverly marketing, manages to gloss over the fact.  The fact is, iOS has certain functionality removed/suppressed on Iphone 4 devices and even more functionality suppressed on 3GS devices.  They are suppressed due to hardware limitations (sound familiar?) but because Apple chose to call it iOS 5 across all platforms, there's less uproar (although many balked at Siri not being available on the Iphone 4).   Microsoft chose a different tack, giving users everything that the hardware would support in WP7.8 and creating new hardware for WP8, which has multi-processor support, NFC and better screen resolutions, all of which existing software wouldn't even support if they ported WP8 onto it.  Android is a different beast altogether, but it's what you sign up for when you buy into that particular ecosystem. 

  • xiaozi

    What MS is doing, once again, is copying Apple and stumbling.

    Ditto Nokia, which developed the N9/N900 for MEGO, released it in Asia as N9 and then months later in the ROW as N900, no doubt knowing WP7's days were numbered, a strategic blunder.

    All handset makers face a problem when new features are added that don't exist or cannot be supported by older handsets. Apple manages this by upgrading what can be supported and suppressing what cannot. They also announce what will and will not be supported on various handsets months in advance of a new release, and in the case of IOS6 this means 3GS will not be upgradable. Consumers now considering a 3GS purchase can now make a decision.

    Obviously Nokia was desperate for sales and announcing WS8 would not be compatible at launch would have been (and now has proven to be) a buzz kill. You reap what you sow.

    You need to consider the MS business model: generating revenue from each software release, dangling expensive upgrades adorned with shiny objects in front of consumers. That may have worked for PCs, but it's a fail for handhelds. Can MS change it's stripes with WP8? We shall see, but calling the transitions from WP7 to WP8 anything less than a fail is pitting lipstick on a pig and Nokia's dilemma is proof of that, which is a shame, because the N9/N900 is actually a very nice handset.

  • alfred msungama

    only the Nokia N9. but that doesnt change the fact that MeeGo is the best mobile OS ever :P

  • Paul

    I agree, "clever marketing", saying that everyone is running the latest iOS, does feel a bit dis-honest. Companies have to make a moral decision about living in a grey area in order to keep the sales momentum going on existing products. It seems that MS just decided to call it as it is despite the fact that for most people, the actual consumer experience on 7.8 v/s 8.0 will be nearly identical. 

  • William

    I can understand both sides of the story. I have an HTC Titan and feel a little deceived by the fact it won't get the upgrade. On the other hand, I understand that MS wanted to be fast to introduce WP7 and based it on Windows CE, whilst simultaneously starting to build WP8.

    In the end, looking at it rationally, it doesn't really matter. My phone will continue to do what it did when I bought it, even more when I do get the upgrade to 7.8. Smartphones have an average lifecycle of about 18 months and I'm sure I'll be wanting a new one when the next generation of great new devices start knocking on my door...