An Easter Sunday opening day didn't hurt Microsoft as much as it might have before the Internet existed. The new Nokia Lumia phone had its first official sale day yesterday, when many stores were not open. When The New York Times' Bits Blog's Brian X. Chen checked around 3:00 pm yesterday, "nearly all 39 AT&T stores within proximity of Times Square in Manhattan were either closed for Easter Sunday or did not answer phone calls," he wrote. "The few that were open did not have the handset in stock," he continued. A pretty silly move, but Microsoft, Nokia and AT&T, the three parties who hope to make money off of the sales aren't taking the in-store sales strategy, hoping that the Internet will push sales along.
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"The Lumia has received tremendous product reviews and we have been taking pre-orders online and in our stores all week," an AT&T spokesperson told Chen. This phone is trying to make a mark via the Web, where 21st century hype is built and 21st Century sales are made. These "tremendous product reviews" of course reference all those tech bloggers that got their hands on the phone and chattered about it for half a day last week. (Not all of them were that tremendous, by the way.) And as the spokesperson explains, a chunk of pre-orders happen online. When Chen first checked on Sunday afternoon, the phone ranked number 5 on the Amazon Cell Phones With Service Plans best sellers list. This morning, when we checked, before stores opened, that number had climbed from 5 to numbers 1 and 2, for Lumia's in black and cyan respectively, on that same list. This one metric doesn't represent all sales figures. But, analyst Tero Kuittinen explained to Chen that Amazon sales are a good indicator of a strong product release.
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Releasing a new product on Easter weekend would have meant zero to low sales prospects for Microsoft before the Internet. Now, those who've read the online buzz can click over to another page, pre-order the gadget and know that it will arrive in the mail around the time of its real world debut. Easy peasy. Online shopping's on the rise, in general, up 30 percent last holiday season. It's just easier. Though we still see a physical lust for Apple products, via the Apple Stores' long lines and hyped up launches. Microsoft doesn't have the same draw with its phone, (yet?). (The Xbox and its games, however, still have the ability to attract that kind of attention.)
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There might've also been some strategy behind the Easter release date, notes AllThingsD's Ina Fried. "One side benefit, though, is that little can be made of the initial sales, giving the device some time to live up to the high expectations placed on it by AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia," she writes. Internet judgement's can't already proclaim the product a flop, further hurting its reputation. In fact, the campaign seems ultra concerned about public perception and reception of the device. It has talked up the device as "the hero phone." And continued its marketing push, having a Nokia sponsored Nicki Minaj performance on Friday night. And today, installing what it calls "Free-Time Machines," a promotional tool that spits out prizes, in New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
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However, there's only so long Microsoft can rely on marketing. Over time, sales either will or won't happen either online or in physical stores. And this phone will either save two tech companies angling for comebacks or it won't. As of right now, from our very preliminary unscientific search, it looks like the phone has at least one burden to overcome: the app gap. Microsoft has about 1/10 the offerings of Apple and Android. "Windows Phone continues to have an app gap that it needs to close," writes Chris Ziegler, who was looking forward to owning the phone, on The Verge. Microsoft knows, and it seems to be working a few angles (up to and including throwing large sums of cash in the right direction) to try to fix that — but in the meantime, it hurts," he continues. The product's merits, more than an arbitrary sales date or marketing tactics, will determine if the Nokia Lumia 400 can "save" Microsoft or Nokia.