After two-years of putting all their eggs in the Seattle basket, and providing the platform for Windows phones, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is showing signs of coming around, albeit slowly and shakily. The phone maker has taken some hard punches since the Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) surge. Rumors of a Nokia Windows tablet and a newer smartphone with the PureView camera are keeping the brand in the conversation.
One hindrance has been the murmur that Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 is a less than favorable operating system. There is also a lot less integration between devices. A user can sync certain data, calendars and contacts etc but not as easily or completely as its competitors can sync everything. The app access is not nearly as convenient nor populated. The Nokia's Lumia Windows phone does not yet sync with other devices running on Windows 8. This is a Microsoft problem. Android and iOS have been able to offer this feature. As soon as Microsoft figures out what everyone else is already doing, it will help Nokia integrate and become a more valuable product. In the meantime Nokia's risky all-in wager on Windows Phone is still sitting on the middle of the table. Their former expansion brand, Vertu, which was sold for $250 million, has opened shop as an Android platform. It's insanely expensive phones come with full concierge service instead of those proletariat apps we all slave over. Vertu's are sold for $10,000.
Other investor scares include the selling of yet another Nokia property in Finland. The Peltola campus has been sold to another company in a move to store some cash. Nokia will now lease a piece of its former site from the new owner. Real estate is now being considered a "non-core asset," and has been liquidated as such. This comes on the heels of a sale of its New York property and also its American HQ, after a brief ownership, and at a 50% loss.
Nokia did report that their sales of the three best smartphones, Asha, Lumia and Symbian were better than expected for the end of 2012. Combine this with what the Devices and Services division claims is a reduction in production costs and the margin has increased very well for them. The Asha model now has a total of 15 variants. Nokia recently unveiled its lowest end smartphone. At only $102, it will hit the Asian and South American Markets first.
The best news so far has been reported by Nokia and its news outlets. Besides being a little campy, posting your own reviews does not help with credibility. In two separate articles on Nokia websites, the best functions and the operation of the Windows 8 was heavily lauded. There is of course some substance to these claims, but a positive review is inappropriate. In this market, it's unhip as well.
The Microsoft name isn't helping. The new Surface has been very cold. The Christmas numbers were under a million. This is far less than had been projected. This is a backslide for Microsoft. Most new buyers of tech are also looking away from the PC. This was the cash cow for decades. The trend is tablet, just not the Surface. The Microsoft and Windows affiliation with Nokia is a bad branding for the once leader in hand-sat production. Microsoft will keep its belly full by helping to back a deal which will facilitate Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) becoming a private company. Dell will run on Windows products exclusively and have a symbiotic relationship.
The Super Bowl saw the once-mighty BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) finally offer a new product. No longer are we shown the round device with the tiny keys that resembled ... a BlackBerry. It looks more like a smartphone, the Blackberry z10. US sales don't begin until March, but they are available in Europe and the UK. This is widely considered to be a last chance product. The stock seemed to rise until Home Depot decided that it would be giving its employees iPhones and recalling their long standing use of the BlackBerry. The US Dept of Customs is also becoming Apple savvy, and considering BlackBerry to be contraband.
Nokia is definitely a hold. It is not a dividend stock, so you're in the wrong place for that. But the Lumia continues to sell, and the new low-end Asha lines are promising. It may be a difficult stock to get into, but if you already own it, keep it. The long term is promising.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.