The fall from grace of Nokia has taken many by surprise. From number one with a stranglehold on the smartphone market it has faded almost into obscurity with first the iPhone and then Android taking huge chunks out of its market share. However, with the launch of the new Lumia 820 and 920, many are breathing a sigh of relief.
In Thailand, as was the case in many non-English language markets, Nokia’s marriage to Microsoft has resulted in the company ending up with nothing mainstream to sell. Windows Phone 7 does not support Thai. A language update was promised but never materialised.
While the rest of the world saw the first-generation Lumia phones take pride of place on billboards, Nokia Thailand was still promoting the living-dead Meego N900 even after Meego had been abandoned by Espoo as it fully supported the local language.
Then, when that was proven futile, Symbian phones were put in the firing line. The “it runs Whatsapp too” billboards that were a common sight in Bangkok was probably painful for Nokia fanboys to take. Their former technology leader was here reduced to flogging the fact that Whatsapp also ran on run-down Symbian ecosystem in order to survive.
Every Microsoft press conference I attended was a question of when WP would support Thai.
The industry adapted by launching two types of apps. First was a localized keyboard app where someone could type a sentence and cut it to the clipboard, a cumbersome approach if ever there was one. Second was the rise of wrapper apps, such as a Twitter app that had its own built-in keyboard. Clunky is the word that comes to mind.
Nokia and Microsoft fanboys went through the torture ritual. The rest of the country bought something else that actually worked.
How bad was the situation? I do not personally know of anybody who has used their own money to buy a Windows Phone 7 phone and that includes all the media and public relations people across the region that I have friended on Facebook. I know plenty of people who do have one, but they mostly work for Microsoft, Nokia or certain chip companies, one of whom cheekily told me he had bought a WP7 device with his own money only for his boss to tell me later that while he may have bought it with his own money, but it was later put on an expense report he filed.
Well, after long last, after many Nokia shops have been downsized or closed, after Samsung has grabbed the market lead and run away with it, after people have stopped asking, finally, finally, finally Nokia has something to sell that actually makes sense to the local market.