Should Nokia Strike Now?

| About: Nokia Corporation (NOK)

Minus the app situation, when Nokia (NYSE:NOK) came out with its first Lumia model, the 800, in November 2011, it was immediately equivalent or superior to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) Galaxy series models of the time. The design was beautiful, the build was of high quality and the OS was silky smooth and lightning fast. I still use my 800 every day, and the only shortcoming I can find is the slightly smaller screen size at 3.7 inches. I have more than enough apps for my use. It remains very productive as a business and personal tool with built-in Outlook using Microsoft Exchange mail service, keeping mail, calendar and tasks in sync with my laptop and desktop computers. Whenever I'm in my car, it will play my music collection in random order and read any texts I receive over the vehicle's speakers and allow me to reply hands-free. The smaller screen size became less important to me a few months ago after purchasing a 7 inch Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) tablet.

When the Lumia 920 came out in November 2012, I immediately liked it. Although my 800 was a work of art, I thought it was more appropriate for the fairer sex. The 920 was a man-sized phone with a large 4.5 inch screen and it included the very desirable feature of having the best low-light photographic ability of any smartphone in the world. In my opinion, Nokia had at that moment leap-frogged the competition with the best, all-around smartphone in the world. This is not only my opinion, as the 920 was the recipient of many awards throughout the world.

As a shareholder, I thought: Okay, the iron is hot and it's time to strike. This was the phone that was going to catapult Nokia and make it number one in the world again. For reasons that are likely related to financial resources, the Lumia 920 was not treated as the company's crown jewel, or so it seemed to me. In the US, it was sold exclusively on the second largest carrier, AT&T (NYSE:T), for a period of six months, a period that can amount to a full cycle in the tech world. While I cannot testify first-hand to the following, I have read several online articles saying that marketing, in-store signage, store clerk training and availability of product were all poor. If I am to give all parties involved the benefit of the doubt, all these factors can be attributed to the comparatively modest financial resources of Nokia. At least, this is the impression I now have after hearing CEO Stephen Elop responding to a question regarding AT&T's partnership during Nokia's latest press conference in the US on July 11.

Lumia 1020

At that event, Nokia launched the Lumia 1020 during a spectacular presentation in New York. While the 920 and its variants were head and shoulders the best smartphones in the world, the 1020 is in a league of its own. For the first time ever, a smartphone truly replaces dedicated cameras, not only for ordinary citizens, but for some professional photographers as well. The Lumia 1020 smartphone fills a very strong human desire to document one's journey through life on more practical terms and with more beautiful results.

In mid-2013, the struggling Nokia again has a very desirable product. And this time it's the only company in the world that can offer it... at least for now. Instead of striking while the iron is hot, and offering it to all carriers at once, Nokia is choosing the conservative, go slow approach again. And again, this is likely to related to its financial resources. I am forced to believe -- again -- that the Nokia brain trust has more information and more experience than I do and is choosing the safest option. While I think offering the 1020 to all carriers at once would maximize sales, I am forced to rethink this belief. While it has received lots of praise from some media outlets, other sites have ridiculed it, calling the phone ugly and the 41 mega pixel camera overkill. As hard as it is to accept, the smartphone that I now really want, but will not likely get my hands on for at least six months, seems to have been destined as a niche product. This saddens me on two fronts, as a consumer and a shareholder.

As a shareholder, I now hang my hope on the possibility that both Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Nokia will get their act together and close the app gap before the 2013 Christmas shopping season begins. By this, I mean at least being able to offer the top 100 apps found on both iOS and Android, and any new popular apps within weeks, not months or years. It wouldn't hurt as well if they could provide an OS update to satisfy the loudest critics. As long as these items are not addressed, it seems that share price will remain in the basement and will require more patience still. Perhaps I should now reserve my spot to attend the next annual general meeting to add my voice to others that purchased NOK to make money.

Disclosure: I am long NOK. 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.