Times Square

If an iPhone wannabe lands on Easter, does it make a splash?

April 9, 2012: 7:19 AM ET

With the world's mobile phone market at stake, what were Nokia and Microsoft thinking? 

The Lumia 900 launch party in New York's Times Square

On Monday morning, the day after the U.S. launch of the Lumia 900 -- the device with which Nokia (NOK) and Microsoft (MSFT) hope to challenge Apple's (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) Android's growing dominance of the global smartphone market -- I searched the Internet for photographs or videos of customers lining up to buy it.

I needn't have bothered. The New York Times' Nick Binton spent much of the big day -- April 8, 2012 -- calling every AT&T (T) store within five miles of New York City to see how sales were going. Nineteen didn't answer the phone, 18 played a tape saying they were closed for Easter Sunday, 2 AT&T resellers were open but said they didn't have the Lumia 900 yet.

Wait. Easter Sunday?

Why, with so much at stake, would the marketing geniuses at world's biggest cell phone company and the world's largest PC software company launch a make-or-break product on the third-biggest holiday in the Christian calendar?

The only explanation I can think of is that this phone, no matter how good the reviews (in fact, the reviews were mixed), couldn't draw an iPhone-sized crowd on its own merit. So Nokia and Microsoft launched it with a baked-in, prepackaged excuse:

Of course there were no lines for the Lumia 900. All the stores were closed!

Besides, Nokia had already proven they could draw a crowd. For the phone's official launch party two days earlier, Times Square  was busting -- as numerous YouTube videos will attest -- with excited fans.

Only trouble is, they were all there to see the performance of a hot young hip hop artist -- Nicki Minaj -- not to buy a Lumia 900.

Below: Nokia's own video of the event, complete (at the 3:11 mark) with a giant LED-generated splash.

Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.