Nokia took the wraps off its next-generation Windows Phone 8 devices at a news conference in New York City on Wednesday. The star of the show was the new Lumia 920, which integrates an array of innovative imaging, mapping, wireless charging and augmented reality capabilities.
The Lumia 920's PureView advanced floating lens technology, for example, provides smartphone owners with high-performance capabilities usually only found on stand-alone single-lens reflex cameras, said Nokia Executive Vice President Jo Harlow.
"With the Nokia Lumia 920 we have made it possible to shoot pictures and video at home, outdoors, in a restaurant or even at night -- and come out with professional-looking results," Harlow said.
What's more, by pointing your Nokia lens at any city block Lumia 920 users will be able to see an augmented reality overlay right on the device's 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ screen, which identifies the names of stores, restaurants and hotels.
"This is a much more intuitive and human way to explore your surroundings," Harlow said.
Ready to Compete with Rivals
Microsoft expects the Lumia 920 and 820 to benefit from the common code base that the Windows Phone 8 platform shares with the Windows 8 operating system , which will make it easier for developers to target a range of devices with the same code. Microsoft will be launching a unified development platform and store for its next-generation Windows offerings that will represent the largest single opportunity for software developers.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicted that 400 million devices will be running some form of Windows 8 within the first year of availability.
"With WP8 we are first seeing the hardware," Ballmer said Wednesday. "Over the course of the next month or two we will see the Windows Phone software -- [and with] live tiles front and center on phones, PCs and tablets."
The new features built into the Lumia 920 are "very, very interesting," said Francisco Jeronimo, an IDC research manager based in the U.K. "I think Nokia can now really compete with its smartphone rivals -- and is well positioned to [do so] in the U.S. and European markets," Jeronimo told us in a telephone interview.
Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are the next steps in the development of an ecosystem that goes from an isolated to an integrated and shared experience among the different screens -- PC, tablet, smartphone, and gaming console, Jeronimo said.
"[Microsoft's ecosystem] will provide consumers with a full and familiar experience that will attract them," Jeronimo said.
Nokia also plans to launch a line of Lumia 920 and 820 accessories -- including a diverse array of wireless battery charging options. Moreover, Nokia has already signed agreements with Tea Leaf, Coffee Bean and Virgin Atlantic under which wireless recharging docks will be made available to their respective customers.
The goal is the make wireless charging a "natural and effortless part of your life," said Nokia Senior Vice President Kevin Shields.
A new wireless JBL PowerUp accessory, for example, will both charge the handset's battery as well as connect the handset's music player to a set of JBL speakers over a near field communications link. Nokia Vice President Joe Belfiore also noted that the handset maker's no-sign-up, no-configuration, no-advertising and no-payment music playlist service is slated to become available to all Lumia handset users based in the U.S.
Nokia also previewed its next-generation Lumia 820, which has the same unibody look and feel as the high end Lumia 920, while also sporting exchangeable shells in vibrant colors. Nokia is slated to begin shipping both models later this year, with pricing as well as specific roll-out dates to be announced on a country-by-country basis.