The beginning of fall and back-to-school season has coincided with a flurry of product launches from most of the big technology names. Between this week’s announcement from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) unit Motorola, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) combined launch, and Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) refresher, to be followed by Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) much-awaited flagship event scheduled for the next week, consumers are ready to be spoilt for choice.
But who is likely to cut through all the noise? Let’s take a look:
Nokia + Microsoft
Nokia’s brand new Windows Phone 8 devices — the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 — launched on Wednesday with fairly positive buzz from tech watchers for their features and colorful look. The Finnish company has high hopes from its flagship devices as it piggybacks on Microsoft’s new mobile software with the hope of making a renewed charge in the smartphone market from which it has been cruelly marginalized. Investors, though, were not impressed as Nokia’s stock fell 16 percent on the day.
While the new devices, with their advanced camera features, wireless charging capability, and near field communications technology, seem to have enough to stand out in the crowded market, investors were clearly upset that Nokia didn’t offer enough information on pricing, the device’s date of availability, and which operators it was likely to partner with. Uncertainty is a stock’s enemy, and it became apparent very quickly for Nokia.
“Nokia did not do itself any favors… and made a tactical mistake” by not offering much information apart from the technical details, CCS Insight analyst John Jackson told The Seattle Times. Nokia “is playing a game of chicken with investor patience. And, as of today, it’s losing.”
It’s fair to say that while Nokia may have come up with two pretty great products, its presentation left a lot to be desired.
The Google unit unveiled its first set of smartphones, also on Wednesday, since it was acquired by the search company. The three new devices Droid Razr M, Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD are Motorola’s latest response to the test served up by Apple and Samsung, the two rivals that have dominated the smartphone market over the last few months.
The devices have big screens and stake claim to much longer battery life than a lot of the devices in the market now. But somehow, the features, or the presentation, did not feel like a big enough breakthrough and left analysts and investors less pleased than Google would have hoped.
“It seemed like an evolutionary event rather than revolutionary,” Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “You’ve got higher resolution screens, you’ve got better contrast ratios, but you don’t have major features that stand out.”
While the Droid Razr M started selling online on the day of the launch at Verizon (NYSE:VZ), no specific date was provided for the availability of the other two phones, another point of worry. There were also some surprising coordination issues between Google and its new acquisition: as Google’s new Jelly Bean software won’t be available on the phones until after its launch. Google shares closed 32 cents lower at $680.72 on Wednesday.
Amazon stayed away from wading into the smartphone market despite stray rumors before the start of the big event, but the new e-reader and the line of tablets that the company did unveil quickly captured imaginations. To add to the mix, the stage performance of chief executive Jeff Bezos was also highly appreciated. The addition of FreeTime technology that helps parents keep a track of kids’ tablet use was one of the standout new functions, and the addition of a front-facing camera, fast processors, and the higher screen resolution were features that met expectations.
The company also made sure it revealed the pricing structure for all the products as well as the dates when they get shipped. Amazon has often been criticized for subsidizing its hardware a little too much in an attempt to building up an audience for its digital content. However, Bezos exuded confidence in the company’s strategy on Thursday, giving investors another positive sign, by announcing that they wanted to “make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.”
The ball is now in Apple’s court.
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