Reuters reported on Tuesday damning comments from unnamed sources at four "major telecom operators" in Europe who said that Nokia's Lumia smartphones were not good enough to compete with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPhone or Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC)'s Galaxy devices and would be easier to sell if they were based on the Android operating system rather than Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Phone.
Another hint of an operator shift appeared in the wording of a quote from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in the statement the company issued last week about lowering its device outlook for the first quarter, which Pyramid Research Senior Analyst Stela Bokun spotted. (See Nokia Dives on Lowered Device Outlook.)
Elop said in the statement, "Our operator and distributor partners are providing solid support for Windows Phone as a third ecosystem, as evidenced most recently by the launch of the Lumia 900 by AT&T in the United States."
That may sound acceptable, but the word "solid" caught Bokun's attention.
"When Nokia was switching to Windows Phone and at the beginning of launch of the Lumia phones, Nokia was talking about 'excitement,' 'enthusiasm' [and] 'full support' of the operator and distributor partners, whereas now that wording is replaced by 'solid support,'" she said in an emailed response to Light Reading Mobile.
"I am getting an impression that operators are not as proactive in supporting the third ecosystem as it was initially expected," she added. "Granted, they would like to be able to decrease their dependence on Apple, but I don’t see much concrete movement on their side on this front."
And Bokun isn't the only analyst to notice a change in operator sentiment.
Michael Genovese, managing director at MKM Partners , noted a shift away from Nokia's Symbian OS devices as well. In a research note published after Nokia's reduced outlook announcement last week, he wrote, "Our research, and Nokia’s announcement, strongly suggests that most major European operators have thrown in the towel on Symbian at this point."
Why this matters
If operators are not putting their full weight behind Nokia and the so-called third ecosystem around Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, then that will make Nokia's already challenging transition all the more difficult. And it also suggests that there is a lower-than-expected limit to how much mobile operators are willing to spend on device subsidies and marketing to push Nokia's Lumia smartphones as credible challengers to the iPhone and Android smartphones.
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- Lumia Software Bug Dims Nokia's US Hopes
- What the Nokia Lumia Really Costs
- Nokia's Moody's Blues
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile