Microsoft, Nokia, and AT&T are spending hundreds of millions of dollars pushing the Lumia 900 Windows Phone. They’ve held huge marketing events in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, and signage for the Lumia 900 is blasted across AT&T stores. A report from CNET suggests that retail stores could ultimately be to blame if the Lumia 900 doesn’t take off.
Disguised as customers who have never owned a smartphone before, CNET staff ventured into 5 different AT&T retail stores in New York City on Monday. The would-be customers presented themselves to AT&T sales associates to point them in the right direction. With the hot new Lumia 900 released just one day prior, surely at least some of the sales associates would recommend the latest Windows Phone device, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. In each of the 5 AT&T retail stores, sales associates quickly guided CNET towards the iPhone. Even when CNET asked sales associates directly about the Lumia 900, they were steered away from the Windows Phone device and towards the iPhone or an Android device. Not a single sales associate was able to recommend the Lumia 900, and the sentiment of an employee at a store in the Upper West Side summed up the overarching opinion of Windows Phone:
“Windows Phone is alright, but it’s no iPhone.”
IDC Analyst Ramon Llamas also went to several AT&T stores on Monday in Massachusetts. Llamas was able to find one Windows Phone champion who recommended the Lumia 900 to him, but all other analysts he spoke to recommended Android phones, most notably the Samsung Galaxy Note.
This could spell trouble for Nokia and Microsoft, who are hoping the Lumia 900 will bolster the number of Windows Phone users. Windows Phone’s current global market share falls at around 5% or less while Apple and Google make up about 75-80%. In an interview with CNET, Nokia’s head of North American sales was optimistic about the Lumia 900, stating that he had called several stores in the Chicago area and was pleased with what he heard.
“We’re very pleased with AT&T’s execution of the promotion and the hero status. There’s always room for improvement, but overall, I’m very happy.”
Of course, it’s hard to tell anything from the first week sales numbers, and Nokia and Microsoft’s true challenge will come in the next few months. Generally, people who purchase a device in the first week already know about the benefits of Windows Phone 7, and were likely waiting for the Lumia 900 to be released before purchasing their next smartphone. When it comes to these customers, it’s okay that AT&T sales associates aren’t pushing Windows Phone, as they’ve likely already made up their mind on the platform.
Microsoft and Nokia’s true challenge will come over the next few months as more and more non-smartphone users consider adopting smartphones as their next phone. These companies will need to work with AT&T to ramp up their training program in order to get the sales associates who will be driving sales at AT&T stores to start treating Windows Phone as the legitimate third platform it hopes to become.