Samsung pips Nokia with first Windows Phone 8 handset

Samsung became the first handset maker to announce a smartphone using Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8, making its surprise, hurried announcement just days before the highly anticipated launch of Nokia’s version.

Samsung pips Nokia with first Windows Phone 8 handset

The brief announcement of the Ativ S at IFA in Berlin comes amid expectations that smartphone makers may turn increasingly to Windows devices after a US jury decided many of Samsung’s Google Android-based phones infringed Apple Inc patents.

“Microsoft or Windows never got their best teams, never got their best designs, just because Android was doing so well,” Sid Parakh, an analyst at investment firm McAdams Wright Ragen, of the Samsung phone. “With the change in the legal environment, there’s a case to be made that Samsung will likely shift some of those resources to broaden out or diversify their own exposure.”

Samsung’s Ativ S was tacked onto the end of a long news conference in Berlin that focused on other products, including the Windows 8 Ativ Smart PC and Smart PC Pro tablets, and the Android based Galaxy Note II.

The 8.7mm thick Ativ S sports a high-end 4.8-inch display, 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor, Corning “Gorilla” glass, and an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, Microsoft posted on its official blog.

Samsung said the ATIV phone would hit stores in the October-November period but did not give an exact start date.

Analysts say the introduction of Samsung’s Windows phone may be designed to assuage concerns that Microsoft will favor Nokia. “The fact Samsung was allowed to be the first to announce is Microsoft’s backhanded way of letting other vendors know that Nokia is not getting special treatment,” Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said.

More hardware

Samsung’s Windows-based smartphone marks the first in a “big lineup of new hardware” from the South Korean company based on Microsoft’s software, Microsoft executive Ben Rudolph said.

It also showed off a slew of tablets using Windows 8 software and the second generation of its popular Google Android-based Galaxy Note phone-cum-tablet “phablet”. Samsung has sold some 10 million of its original Galaxy Note devices.

“I am pretty confident it will even outsell its predecessor,” said JK Shin, Samsung’s chief of mobile business.

The new version of the Note features a thinner and slightly bigger 5.5-inch screen, quad-core processor, Android Jellybean, and improved stylus function.

Apple did not include the Note and other newly unveiled Samsung products in its original lawsuit. But the company and its lawyers are expected by many legal experts to try and use last week’s legal victory to go after future gadgets, especially because the jury found infringing features in Samsung phones such as pinch-and-zoom and bounce-back – common in Android.

Nokia expectations

Nokia is due to unveil its new Lumia line of smartphones using Windows Phone 8 in New York on 5 September.

“Expectations for a 40 megapixel or possibly 20 megapixel camera model are running high. If Nokia does not unveil a monster camera handset next week, many will be disappointed,” said Tero Kuittinen, analyst at mobile analytics firm Alekstra.

But Samsung’s launch “leaves Nokia plenty of room to draw a clear contrast with its upcoming announcement”.

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